and the Law
Forced marriages tend to occur due to cultural,
economic and even dysfunctional parent-child precipitators, where female
consent is considered irrelevant. And so it remains that the practice of
forced marriage occurs not because of Islam, but in spite of it, given
that the absence of consent renders these marriages void under Islam.
The criminalising of forced marriages under the
Sexual Trafficking Act, which is the current government proposal,
acknowledges the abusive practice, but only when the victim is about to be
sent overseas or possibly after departure.
the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights, (AMWCHR) favours
an alternative to dealing with this problem under the Sexual Trafficking
Act. AMWCHR argues instead,
for the criminalisation of forced marriages to be located within the
Family Violence Bill currently being debated at a Federal level. The
Centre contends that legislation needs to deal with this problem before
girls are sent overseas: proactive, rather than reactive, interventions
are the best.
But legislation that prosecutes parents or guardians
who facilitate forced marriages is not a solution by itself. Community
education and rapport-building by welfare organisations need to take place
in tandem with any proposed legislation to make change meaningful;
otherwise forced marriages might be driven further underground, entrapping
victims and ostracising communities.
Community-based agencies need to be adequately
resourced to reach out to families who may be contemplating forcing their
daughters into marriage. By explaining the associated risks to their
daughter’s psychological, emotional and physical well being (as well as
the criminal implications they themselves might face), this more nuanced
approach is likely to see a reverse in this trend and has been the
experience of certain welfare practitioners in Victoria.
The value of welfare-based organisations working
together with communities can be seen in SE Melbourne amongst certain Arab
communities. In this instance the rates of early, albeit consensual
marriages have been thwarted. Counsellors have witnessed a decisive
increase in the number of young girls who complete school, attend
university and after graduating, then consider marriage, instead of
marrying immediately after Year 12. Government funding to support
proactive efforts is crucial in circumventing the need for remedial
support services later on.
Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights