Dowry abuse subject of Senate Inquiry

6 September 2018

Good Shepherd’s Women’s Research, Advocacy and Policy Centre recently contributed to the Australian Senate’s inquiry into the practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia > Read the submission here.

Dowry refers to the property, gifts or money brought by one family to another before, during or after marriage.

In some instances dowry exchange can become abusive and exploitative. Examples illustrated in the submission demonstrate a range of situations where sexual, physical and psychological violence arises in the context of dowry negotiation - and throughout a marriage.

Dowry payment for marriage, whilst outlawed in some countries, including India, is still practised as a cultural norm in some countries. In Australia there are a number of communities that continue to engage in the practice.

As well as taking the form of physical violence, it is our experience that dowry abuse in Australia can also include threats related to migration (such as revoking visa sponsorship and deportation), demands to annul or dissolve a marriage and international abandonment.

In June of this year, the Australian Senate referred the practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee for inquiry and report by December 2018.

We partnered with inTouch Multicultural Centre against Family Violence (inTouch) to contribute to the inquiry, presenting case studies from over 10 years’ experience in the field and referencing the latest research on the issue.

It is our primary recommendation that dowry abuse is included in the definition of domestic and family violence nationally, recognising that it is economic abuse. A clear acknowledgement that domestic and family violence can include multiple perpetrators (such as family members) not just intimate partners is also a necessary consideration.

This is an important step towards addressing the issue, opening up opportunities for cross-sector engagement, information and support services for individuals at risk.

This is just one of 24 recommendations we made to the inquiry. Click here to read the submission in full and subscribe to our mailing list to stay up to date with our latest work on this issue and others impacting women in Australia.