Recognising forced marriage as a form of family violence opens the door for victim-survivors to get help, making the case for Australia to reconsider how it classifies the abuse, a report recommends.
The Monash University report, launched on Wednesday at an event chaired by former Victoria Police chief commissioner Christine Nixon, backs Victoria's decision to legally recognise forced marriage as a form of family violence.
The recognition allows for more support for victim-survivors, with Victoria the only Australian state or territory to classify it as a statutory example of family violence, the report found.
The study involved interviews and focus groups with more than 20 family violence and frontline service providers, who said they were able to create clearer pathways for victim-survivors since the law took effect in 2019.
However, more work needed to be done to ensure people were able to access the necessary support, and a review into family violence services was needed to make sure they were effectively dealing with victim-survivors of forced marriage, the report said.
It called for a shift away from thinking about forced marriage as only affecting culturally and linguistically diverse and newly arrived migrant communities.
Greater awareness was also needed about how it could occur in different ways, experts said.
"It is a positive development for Victoria to lead the way in recognising forced marriage as a form of family violence in law because it increases opportunities for identification and pathways to support," lead researcher Shih Joo Tan said.
"For impactful change, it requires a better understanding of the needs of persons affected by forced marriage and closer examination of how well existing family violence services are meeting their needs."
Operational and jurisdictional challenges also remained because the Commonwealth's human trafficking framework was the primary way to address forced marriages, the report said.
Australian Associated Press
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