Good Shepherd welcomes government’s step toward improving protections for victims of forced marriage

15 February 2018

Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand welcomes the announcement by the Turnbull Government today of a pilot model that will enable victims of forced marriage to access support without having to engage in criminal proceedings against perpetrators, the majority of whom are intimate family members.

“Up until now, victims of forced marriage had to agree to engage with the Australian Federal Police in order to receive support. As you can imagine, when the majority of marriages are facilitated by family members it puts enormous pressure on victims,” said Ms Laura Vidal, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand’s forced marriage specialist.

“Providing support for victims – regardless of their willingness or capacity to engage with law enforcement - is a significant move forward in recognising their human rights.”

Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand has long called for separating support for victims from participation in the criminal justice system. In 2014, the report The Right to Refuse detailed evidence of nationwide examples of forced marriage and the overwhelming advice that individuals are falling through the gaps because of the fear associated with participating with law enforcement.

“Victims of forced marriage are often under the age of 18, face multiple barriers in accessing safety and support, and require long term and unconditional assistance,” said Ms Vidal. “We are pleased that the Australian Government will use this pilot model to build an evidence base to extend unconditional support to all victims of trafficking and slavery.”

This a vital first step in implementing a range of Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand recommendations, which include the introduction of forced marriage protection orders, to ensure victims can live safely at home and in the community.