HUMAN TRAFFICKING WORKING GROUP
Dr Andreas Schloenhardt (Coordinator)
Headline New laws to stop forced marriage
Reported in The Australian
Date of publication January 11, 2011.
Author Patricia Karvelas
Copyright © 2011 News Ltd.
The University of Queensland
TC Beirne School of Law
The University of Queensland TC Beirne School of Law Human Trafficking Working Group
TOUGH new laws to stamp out forced marriages and sexual servitude are being flagged, to
close a loophole that allows some of the crimes to go unpunished.
Justice Minister Brendan O'Connor told The Australian there was a need to improve laws to
stop forced marriages -- as well as a public campaign to warn communities there would be
harsh consequences for arranging them.
Proposals include specific offences targeting those who force a person into marriage, profit
from trafficking individuals into a marriage, or coerce or use threats to bring about a marriage.
The use of civil remedies, such as protection orders, which can be used by a court to protect
victims and people at risk of forced or servile marriage, are being considered.
“The consultation now under way is about exploring whether we can strengthen criminal
sanctions, including introducing new charges to better target slavery, forced marriage and
exploitative labour practices,” Mr O'Connor said.
The government argues that although forced marriage could be considered a form of sexual
servitude, which would be captured under the definition of exploitation as a trafficking offence,
such cases may not always be captured under the criminal code -- and some people may be
slipping through the net. “Creating specific forced and servile marriage offences would send a
clear message to the community that this type of conduct is prohibited in Australia and would
reflect the seriousness of the issue and the harm that may be caused,” a discussion paper on
the issue says.
“This may provide a deterrent effect, although it would be contingent on a high level of
awareness of, and public support for, the new offences.”
The proposed forced and servile marriage offence could carry a maximum penalty of 15 years'
imprisonment, while the aggravated forced and servile marriage offence could carry a
maximum penalty of 20 years' imprisonment.
There is little information regarding the extent of forced and servile marriage in Australia. The
Australian Federal Police received three reports of forced and servile marriage last year and
two cases were heard by the courts.
The director of the Anti Slavery Project, Jennifer Burn, said people did not understand what
forced marriage was.
“We think forced marriage is very under-reported,” she said.
“There aren't any laws against forced marriage as such. We need to consider whether we
need to beef up the laws or look at community education or a combination of both. Forced
marriage may well be masked. It may look like domestic violence but it is actually forced
An electronic copy of this document is available at www.law.uq.edu.au/humantrafficking.