Although requesting a dowry was outlawed in India in 1961, the practice continues in many migrant communities in Australia and is often linked to domestic violence.
Women who refused to comply with dowry demands often face homelessness and visa issues.
The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence recommended Victoria consider new laws which include dowry-related abuse as a form of family violence.
The commission’s report found that people from ethnic communities — particularly women of African, Middle Eastern and South Asian background — are disproportionately affected by family violence which is often linked to forced marriage, female genital mutilation and “dowry-related abuse”.
Labor MP Julian Hill believes the Commonwealth also has a role to play and should consider amending legislation around family law proceedings, forced marriages and immigration to provide stronger protections for women.
Mr Hill has written to a parliamentary committee on legal affairs urging them to consider the new laws, saying it is doing “great harm” in some migrant communities.
“I am aware of longstanding and ongoing community concern regarding the practice of dowry in Australia,” he wrote.
“There are federal implications that warrant formal consideration … I believe this issue needs to be formally considered.”
At a recent anti-dowry summit in Melbourne, speakers from India and African communities urged the Government to act on dowry-related domestic violence.
Indian-born psychiatrist and Director at the Australasian Centre for Human Rights and Health, Dr Manjula O’Connor, believes generic laws are not enough and is urging state and federal governments to introduce specific legislation targeting dowries.
“We need culturally sensitive laws that will pick up and punish culturally nuanced abuse of power,” she wrote in a recent newsletter.
“As dowry-related violence is also present in other ethnic communities, a law to enhance identification, to act as a deterrent and to punish the perpetrators of this crime is clearly part of the solution.”
Victoria Police has also called for better training on dowry demands.
Read More: Herald Sun
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