I am pleased to inform you that the Australian Senate has referred to the Legal and Constitutional References Committee an inquiry into Dowry Abuse in Australia.
This inquiry will provide a transparent and thorough investigation into the practice and prevalence of dowry in Australia as well as its potential links to family violence.
The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence suggested that: “The Victorian Government amend section 6 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) to expand the statutory examples of family violence to include forced marriage and dowry-related abuse” (Recommendation 156). Similarly, the Senate inquiry will be able to make recommendations about the appropriateness and efficacy of legislative changes at the federal level to combat the perceived risk of dowry abuse.
I encourage you to make a submission to the inquiry before 17 August 2018. Submissions can be made online at: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/OnlineSubmission
or via email to [email protected].
Submissions may be referrable to any or all of the inquiry’s Terms of Reference.
I have I have included below the following information which may be of interest:
- the inquiry’s Terms of Reference adopted by the Senate;
- a short speech I gave in the House of Representatives in May on this issue; and
- links to news articles that cover some of the community concerns about dowry abuse in Australia.
Senator Louise Pratt is the Chair of the inquiry. Senator Pratt and I both hope you will contribute information and thoughts to the inquiry.
Submissions from a wide range of people and organisations are necessary for inquiries like these to be effective in both exploring the complex issues involved, and proposing meaningful changes.
If you have questions about making a submission please telephone (02) 6277 3560 or email [email protected].
Alternatively, please contact me at any time on (03) 9547 1444 if you have any general queries or suggestions.
Julian Hill MP
Federal Member for Bruce
Terms of Reference
The practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia, with particular reference to:
- the extent and nature of knowledge regarding cultural attitudes to, the practice of, and the prevalence of dowry in Australia, both before and after marriage;
- the appropriateness and impacts of dowry as a cultural practice in modern Australia, taking account of our national commitment to gender equality and human rights, and approach to multiculturalism;
- reports of dowry abuse, including potential links to family violence, pretext for arranged marriage, forced marriage, modern day slavery, financial abuse, domestic servitude, murder, and other crimes, as well as any connections between dowry abuse and adverse mental health outcomes for affected women, including self-harm and suicide;
- the adequacy of the family law system, including how divorce and property settlement proceedings deal with dowry and dowry abuse, and the operation of and need for extra-jurisdictional (including international) enforcement mechanisms;
- confirmed and potential links between dowry, dowry abuse and forced and/or arranged marriages, both in Australia and in connection with Australia’s migration program;
- the adequacy of Australia’s migration law system in terms of addressing dowry and dowry abuse, including:
- the extent to which the requirements for spouse and family visas may enable or prevent dowry abuse;
- vulnerabilities experienced by women suffering dowry abuse as a result of temporary migration status, including disincentives to report dowry abuse and the ability of victims to access the family violence protections afforded by the Migration Act and associated regulations; and
- Recommendations for change if necessary.
- training and reporting regimes that apply to Commonwealth, and State and Territory police forces and family violence services in relation to dowry and dowry abuse;
- investigation of laws and practices in international jurisdictions, in relation to defining dowry and combatting dowry abuse, with particular regard to how these approaches could be applied the Australian context;
- the adequacy of current Commonwealth, and State and Territory laws in establishing broadly accepted community norms and in preventing dowry abuse, and specific recommendations for change if laws need to be strengthened; and
- any other related matters.
Speech to the House of Representatives, 30 May 2018
Mr HILL (Bruce) (10:18): I rise to speak out regarding the alarming issue of dowry, and dowry related abuse, and the violence affecting women and families across Australia. The parliament and the government must take this seriously. Some consideration of my request was given last year by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, but their report just kicked the can down the road to the family law inquiry. This isn’t good enough. I now call for a dedicated inquiry by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee to shine real light on the issues.
Payment of dowry is a cultural practice that still happens in many countries in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. It’s mainly paid by a bride’s family to the groom and his family—gold, jewellery, cash and sometimes property. It has cultural and probably religious origins. It was outlawed in India in 1961, yet Australia has still failed to outlaw dowry abuse. Shocking stories have been aired in the media, including an excellent piece in 2017 by Deborah Johnson as part of the ABCs investigation into the links between religion and family violence.
I believe the practice of dowry is completely inappropriate in modern Australia. Dowry perpetuates a culture of ownership of women, which runs against the cause of equality. Women are not property; cultural or religious practices that suggest so are not welcome in Australia. I think it’s important that we state these truths loudly, clearly and without qualification. We should not be afraid of honest, respectful debate in communities to confront the deeply patriarchal cultures of male entitlement and deal with this problem.
This is not a benign, esoteric issue. Dowry extortion has been recognised as a direct cause of family violence and horrific murders and suicides. Alarming growth in reports has been seen in certain communities.
Once again the Victorian Labor government has led the way. I congratulate them on their commitment to implement the 2016 recommendation of the Royal Commission into Family Violence to expand statutory examples of family violence to include forced marriage and dowry-related abuse. You cannot bar gifts, of course, but you can stop grooms and families from demanding dowry, or bride price, as it’s called, before or, often, after marriages, when the family then get their hooks into a vulnerable new bride. Women and families who don’t comply with these dowry demands face abuse and abandonment by husbands and deportation if on temporary visas and loss of Medicare and access to services. Outlawing dowry is an imported normative position, but there are other areas to explore, including the Marriage Act, slavery laws, migration, financial dispute provisions and family violence responses by Commonwealth and state agencies.
When I first spoke publicly in the media last year about dowry abuse, I got emails and calls from men telling me it’s not a problem and bagging the brave women who were speaking out. I congratulate my friend Dr Manjula O’Connor for her tireless work campaigning for years against dowry through the Australasian Centre for Human Rights and Health. I repeat my call for a dedicated Senate inquiry this year, not another joint House committee controlled by government muppets.
Links to ABC News article
A Senate inquiry into the nature and prevalence of dowry abuse in Australia will examine its “devastating impacts” on women in Hindu and Sikh communities amid growing concerns about a recent significant increase in dowry-related domestic violence, murders and suicides.
The inquiry will for the first time assess the adequacy of Australia’s family law system and migration law system in addressing dowry abuse after an ABC News investigation found the cultural practice had resulted in a spate of horrific deaths in the past decade following a wave of migration from the Indian sub-continent.
Advocates are attributing an alarming increase in domestic violence in Hindu and Sikh communities to myriad factors, including the influence of ancient texts which relegate women to inferior status, a reluctance by clergy to even raise the subject of family violence, and Australia’s failure to outlaw dowry abuse.
It’s a type of domestic violence you probably haven’t heard of: dowry abuse. Some Indian-Australian men are using their desirable status as residents to extort thousands of dollars from the women they’re marrying, with threats and violence if their escalating demands aren’t met.
Medical professionals and academics are calling for a national law against dowry, as part of Australia’s first summit looking at the impacts of the practice.
Dr. Ram Mohan Ph.D
President – FICQ