Business Standard

Australia reveals plan to alleviate forced marriages

IANS  |  Canberra 

A new plan to combat forced marriages, human trafficking and slavery within Australia has been launched by the federal government.

The safety plan and the launch of a Forced Marriage Community Package encourages young women to speak to civil society organisations if they are being sent by their parents or guardians overseas as part of an arranged marriage, Xinhua reported.

The plan came as Australia's Immigrant Women's Health Service revealed that a nine-year-old Sydney girl had allegedly left the country to be married overseas. It is one of 12 reported cases since June.

It is believed that the girl has travelled to the Middle East.

"Forced marriage is an insidious and hideous crime," Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan said in a statement Tuesday.

"The Community Pack has been designed to help our communities recognise and respond appropriately when confronted with forced marriage, as well as assist people who may be vulnerable to forced marriage to understand their rights and how to access support."

"Now is the time for a new vision; one that maintains Australia is a place where no one is subjected to human trafficking or slavery and the human rights of all people are valued equally," he said.

However, Immigrant Women's Health Service director Eman Sharobeem does not believe the Community Pack will be effective.

Instead, she said young women will be too afraid to directly implicate their parents or guardians to fully utilise the new safety plan.

Sharobeem was also critical of the way the federal government was delivering its information to those in vulnerable positions.

"Forced marriage and child brides happen among the culturally and linguistically diverse communities, those communities will not go to the website and will not share glossy papers to see what's written about legislation in the country," she said Tuesday.

"I don't hope and wish to see parents behind bars.. I already tried with many of them to talk about informing the authorities and as soon as I put that on the table, the girls actually turn their back and say 'we're not even going to have a conversation with you'."

Sharobeem believed the $425,000 spent funding the Community Pack would be better spent on education programmes within local communities.

"Teach us how to talk to our parents, because our own mother wants to send us to a man we don't know', are some of the words I hear from these girls," Sharobeem said. "It breaks my heart to see that we're trying our best to save lives and yet the government is printing glossy paper."

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First Published: Tue, December 02 2014. 08:24 IST