Lifting the veil on forced marriage

Forced marriage and slavery-like practices are going unchecked in South Australia, as social services, school teachers, nurses, doctors and other frontline workers do not recognise this form of human trafficking, Flinders University legal experts claim.

As a result of growing evidence, modern slavery has been raised in the South Australian Parliament, with growing calls for an official enquiry in light of slavery-like practices – especially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SA Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said the “South Australian Government strongly condemns all slavery and slavery-like practices; however, we will not be supporting this motion to establish a joint committee” in response to calls for a joint parliamentary enquiry from Labor MP Katrine Hildyard.

Opposition Member for Reynell Ms Hildyard is planning a reply to State Parliament while the Working Women’s Centre SA has disclosed it’s looking after two cases of modern slavery.

Flinders University criminology lecturer Associate Professor Marinella Marmo fears the few cases identified are just the tip of the iceberg.

“Federal figures indicate forced marriage is the highest form of slavery-like practice in comparison to any other form of human trafficking for the past few years in South Australia.”

Between 2009 and 2019, 13 cases of forced marriage were referred by AFP (Australian Federal Police) to the Support for Trafficked People Program, or one per 243,000 inhabitants in South Australia, which Associate Professor Marmo reinforces the need for action.

“On a per capita basis, this means that SA comes second after Victoria in number of cases.

“In most of these cases, the alarm bell was raised by or via the victims’ school network.

“In general, forced marriage victims fail to be identified in rural and metropolitan South Australia because we lack a proper awareness-raising and education approach, distinct from family violence and child protection.”

“If the SA Government does not take clear action at state level, there will be more cases un-identified or mis-identified,” she warns.

Forced marriage cases are very complex, have interconnected vulnerabilities and multiple safety risks, she says.

“The consequence of a mis-identification is that a forced marriage victim is negated access to the 200 days of forced marriage support in the Support for Trafficked People Program.

“I appreciate the interconnectedness of forced marriage, family violence and child abuse, but forced marriage presents nuances that need to be dealt with an effective and tailored support.”

To promote forced marriage awareness, Flinders University has partnered up with ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans) to deliver an education and  interactive training webinar session.

The public can tune into, ‘Education and Training Opportunity: Forced Marriage Webinar’ on 6 October.

ACRATH forced marriage expert Liz Payne and human trafficking expert Marilynn Ross from the AFP will deliver this training session.

Tune into the live webinar –

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