Dowry recognised by the Victorian Government in its submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence as a contributor to the problem of domestic violence in multicultural Australia. The next step is to make it illegal.
Many told us that this is not a problem in Victoria or Australia but constant reports of dowry related domestic violence in clinical and research settings, in the media have alerted the authorities that our campaign is on the right track.
ACHRH held protest marches in the street, and commenced a petition which has been signed by members of the Indian and other communities and it’s one giant step closer to change in laws sought by our petition, now signed by 700 members of ethnic and mainstream community of Victoria.
For 2 years ACHRH members have led public mobilisation for this goal, including:
- Gave voice to the dowry issue, a dirty secret in a great number of our ethnic communities.
- Brought attention to the coercive dowry demands that are far in excess of the annual income of the families as a cause of violence directed against women.
- Started a petition that demands change in laws to include dowry demands an example of economical abuse under the Family Violence Protection act 2008 and thus making it a criminal act.
- Received support from MPs of all parties at the Sate and Federal level -Liberal, the Labour and the Greens. Our petition has been tabled twice in the Victorian Parliament by the former Premier The Hon Ted Bailleu in 2014.
- ACHRH Helped compile media reports of two dowry related deaths in Victoria ( The Herald Sun 23/4/15).
Once the laws are enacted our next step is to request the Federal Government for changes be brought at the immigration levels. This will have an impact internationally. We hope the entire world will unite behind the goal of banning dowry except in a symbolic form. Major cash transfers or huge gifts whether from the groom to the bride’s family or from the bride to the groom’s family has dehumanising effect. A bride is being sold by parents or brought by husband in one scenario and in the other the young bride is seen as a big burden for the groom and his family that they must be paid big sums of money as compensation. It should illegal in every country. Dowry is practiced in most South Asian, East Asian, Middle Eastern , and Eastern European Countries .
Dowry is a human rights abuse and about 10,000 ‘dowry deaths’ were recorded in 2012 in Indian national family survey. UN Women estimate dowry deaths in India are hugely under-estimated. Research evidence shows dowry demands to be associated with verbal abuse, physical violence, torture and death. The biggest pressures falls on the families who have to beg, borrow or steal to pay for dowries in order to conform to social pressure. WHO states that Gender equality is the best preventive measure to stop domestic violence. The tradition of dowry negates the principle of equality in the marriage -whether dowry is given or taken.
Our work is far from done, but it’s a day to celebrate — congratulations to everyone
Just last year change in community attitudes to dowry seemed nearly impossible. It was going to remain a blind spot in multicultural Australia and domestic violence debate. But with hope, and good strategy, and the support of many Political leaders like Ted Baillieu, Minister Fiona Richardson , organisations like National Council of Women Victoria, Royal Australian NZ College of Psychiatrists, Media such as the ABC, The Age, The Herald Sun, The ethnic newspapers like Santa Banta, The Indian Sun as well as our own community research conducted with groups from The Melbourne University most of us now believe the tide is turning, and momentum is building to get a legal and immigration change that will set the international stage on course to a solution to this dowry related millennia old social problem .
It will be a long fight, we cannot afford to drop our guard, as there is no commitment to change the laws as yet but today, we celebrate a battle won!!!
With warmest thanks from the ACHRH Team