The Australian government announced Sunday that victims of forced marriages in Australia will have access to a support policy providing needs-based prevention and early intervention as part of a push to end modern-day slavery. Victims or those at risk of being forced into marriage can now receive access to 200 days of holistic support through the government’s program.
The government will spend AU$12.1 million on the initiative and another AU$2.2 million to extend its current Speak Now anti-slavery project. Access to support will be possible without participating in the criminal justice process. The programing offers financial assistance, access to health and accommodation services, counseling and community support.
In March, the Modern Slavery Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 was introduced in the Australian Capital Territory’s Legislative Assembly. The bill would establish an anti-slavery commissioner and impose obligations on certain entities to address the risks of current slavery practices in their operations and supply chains. The role and functions of the commissioner would complement work undertaken across government, business and civil society to prevent and respond to modern slavery.
Reasons for modern slavery through forced marriage are multi-faceted. The practice is often justified to ensure the victim/survivor marries someone of the same faith, culture or ethnic group. Additional factors may include a family’s low economic status, the need to pay a debt, immigration fraud or an attempt to cover up sexual abuse in a family or community. Forced marriage is considered a form of gender exploitation.
Australian social services minister Amanda Rishworth said, “Modern slavery, including forced marriage, is an abhorrent abuse of power, and the government is doing everything we can to eliminate it from our society.”