Senate Inquiry hearing: Definition of family violence needs to explicitly reference dowry abuse

21 September 2018

Today we are are appearing before the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to argue that dowry abuse be included in the definition of family violence to provide increased protections for individuals at risk.

We are one of eight parties selected to give verbal evidence to the hearing in Melbourne today following a joint submission with inTouch Multicultural Centre against Family Violence (inTouch) to the Senate inquiry into the practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia.

“There needs to be an explicit reference to dowry abuse in the definition of domestic and family violence nationwide to increase protections for individuals at risk,” said Stella Avramopoulos, CEO Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand.

“According to the Attorney General’s Department, the existing family violence response framework is broad enough to include instances of dowry-related abuse. However, it is our experience that victims of dowry-related abuse often miss out on the support they need as a result of this broad strokes approach.

“Including dowry abuse in the definition of family violence is the first step towards empowering the women whose lives have been irreparably damaged as result of these practices.

“We do not believe that the system of dowry itself is exploitative—but it can become exploitative when practised in a way that involves force, fraud, coercion, threats and violence.”

Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand and inTouch have seen multiple examples of dowry abuse in their work. Some of these included other forms of family violence, financial abuse, domestic servitude and slavery.

Michal Morris, CEO, inTouch, noted that dowry abuse is actually a form of family violence stating:

“We see firsthand the devastating effects of dowry abuse on the lives of women and their children. Women who suffer this economic abuse often also report it together with physical, psychological and other forms of violence from an intimate partner and/or multiple perpetrators within the extended family.

“It’s incumbent on us, in addressing all forms of family violence, to raise awareness of this issue and to seek appropriate redress.”

The Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs is expected to hand a final report back to the Senate Thursday 6 December, 2018.

Read our submission