Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — Everyone in Australia should be free to choose whether they marry or not and who they marry. This statement is not true for certain people. I refer to the practice of forced marriages in Australia, a practice which is not uncommon despite the laws against it. Forced marriage occurs when a person marries without free and full consent. It can happen when a person is brought into the country in order to be married and when a person is taken to an overseas country for the purpose of a forced marriage. The reasons for these types of marriages can be complex and diverse, but whatever the reason may be, in Australia this is illegal.
According to the Royal Commission into Family Violence, 42 cases of forced marriage were referred to the Australian Federal Police between March 2013 and 2015; however, little is known about the prevalence of this practice in Australia. During the royal commission a young girl revealed:
It’s so common here among my relatives to not even ask the young people and to go to Afghanistan and get a person to marry them.
The Royal Commission into Family Violence groups forced marriage with female genital mutilation and dowry-related violence as forms of family violence experienced by culturally and linguistically diverse women. Unfortunately the report states that in the past these forms of abuse have not been readily recognised as family violence. The reality is that refusal by young women or men to marry almost equates to losing the love and support of the family. Some young women facing forced marriages turn to professionals for help but do not receive appropriate assistance. It is of paramount importance to assert that culture is not a cause of family violence, nor does culture excuse violent and abusive behaviour. We must work towards becoming more culturally educated and culturally sensitive in order for these women to gain the confidence that this country they now call home will grant them the protection they so dearly need.