Dowry law to give abused Indian women in Australia respite

Dowry law to give abused Indian women in Australia respite
With regulations in place, women will find it easier to approach authorities regarding the abuse they face at the hands of their husbands
For years now the Australasian Centre for Human Rights and Health has been fighting against ‘dowry’, which they believe plays a ‘significant adverse role’ in leading to emotional and physical abuse and has harmful impacts on mental health.
The Centre made petitions in this regard to the government, which were tabled in the Parliament three times – twice by Ted Bailleu in 2014 and once in 2015 by Heidi Victoria.
Finally, a law has been proposed with regard to dowry. The centre highlighted the need for greater awareness and education and called for the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) to be amended to include misuse of dowry as an example of economic abuse or to make the ‘taking and giving of dowry illegal’.(within 12 months).
‘Dowry’ refers to money, property or gifts transferred by a woman’s family to her husband upon marriage. Sometimes, dowry demands can be for substantial amounts of money which are multiple times the annual income of a bride or the groom’s family.The Commission heard that misuse of dowry was a ‘substantial problem’ and a particular concern in Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and, increasingly, Middle Eastern communities.
The Commission also heard that a demand for dowry is unlawful in some of these overseas jurisdictions. Socio-economic status affects the amount of dowry to be paid. Dowry-related violence commonly involves claims that dowry was not paid and coercive demands for further money or gifts from a woman and her extended family.
In some cases a man will use a prospective entitlement to permanent residency in Australia as a bargaining tool to attract a higher dowry price from his future spouse and her family.
This abuse can be aggravated by a woman’s uncertain visa status. Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand and Wyndham Legal Service noted that dowry-related violence ‘typically co-existed with visa and migration challenges for women who were often in Australia on spousal visas and more limited in their options’.
During the community consultations the Commission heard directly from women who had experienced dowry-related abuse.
One woman said her husband had threatened to report her to immigration authorities if she did not give him money from her parents: The fact was I was being pressured to get money from my parents. He said he needs some dowry. He had a huge house but because I couldn’t work because of visa restrictions, I was told to get money from my parents. I have some photos of how much gifts my parents gave—the rings, the gold … All these gifts were exchanged during the marriage ceremony but they were not happy with this. When I said my parents couldn’t afford it and he said then he’d write to the Department of Immigration and I’d be asked to go back to India.”
Women who sought assistance experienced difficulty because there was a lack of understanding about dowry and its misuse. Dowry is a main issue and it’s not being recognised here. You go to the police and they have no idea what you’re talking about … here it’s hard because the police don’t know what it means.
For some women the money their families have spent on dowry also acts as a barrier to their leaving their abusive partners.
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