Saturday, 18 May 2013

Forced Marriage – I Do...

How did you meet your partner?  Do you remember the proposal?  Very often we share funny stories and fond memories with our friends.

For many women this is not a fond memory.  In fact, it can be the awkwardness of an arranged marriage or the trauma of a forced marriage.  If we continue along this spectrum women forced, threatened or deceived, become a commodity that is used by others. This can lead to forced labour, brutal treatment and organ trafficking.  So serious was this that women’s groups including the National Council of Women Australia began asking the government to investigate and to make changes to the law.

Early in 2013 the Australian Parliament passed new laws to criminalise forced marriage.  Penalties of up to seven years jail for forcing a woman into marriage or harbouring a victim.  If someone helps another person to entice a woman by threats or deception they too, can face charges.  Australia celebrates its cultural diversity but there is a tension between some multi-cultural communities and this new Australian law.  We need to get the word out but with sensitivity to cultural influences.

What we all value is to be in a country where we are free to choose, including our human relationships - our friends or those we choose to love or spend our lives with.
In past centuries kings and queens were married to preserve political power or to ensure the monarch’s line was continued – at odds to the freedom to choose in Australia.  Questioning old age rituals is possible in countries like Australia.  Some women will choose new ways; other women will choose to retain the old ways.  Whichever choice if freely chosen is OK.  But where a woman’s wishes are not considered the people involved can expect to be charged under Australian law.

Will forced marriages under the new laws become a thing of the past or not?

Let’s hear your views.