The problem of forced marriages has been a matter of debate recently in Australia. The Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon is looking to introduce legislation making forced marriage a crime. She believes it is time that the damaging effect of forced marriages ought to be recognised. In this article we will look at the proposed rules that will be brought in and how they could potentially affect family immigration to Australia, including prospective marriage visas, de facto partner visas and spousal visas.
Nicola Roxon was quoted as saying that “It is a serious matter, it is a serious crime and people in Australia should understand that in Australia marriage is between consenting adults and that consent must be real.” As well as tackling forced marriage it is also believed that these new measures will help to prevent trafficking and forced servitude.
The problem with this is that at present forced marriage is not officially regarded as a crime. Therefore it can be difficult to put an exact figure on the amount of forced marriages that currently exists in the country. There is also the difficulty when assessing a subclass 300 prospective marriage visa as it has to be assessed whether or not consent has been granted. While many have welcomed the proposed changes some critics have referred to the proposed legislation as “a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”
One type of visa that is likely to be affected is the Subclass 300 fiancée visa (also known as known as the prospective marriage visa). At present this visa allows s foreign national to leave and return to Australia as many times as you wish during a nine month period after it has been granted. The likelihood is that the way this is assessed will be changed with regard to whether or not someone has been coerced into a marriage in order to gain a visa for entry into Australia.
Reports in the Australian media have shown that some forced marriage partners were told by their family they were going on holiday and were not aware of the marriage until the ceremony had taken place. Often the prospective partners will be cousins and there have been reports of children at the age of 15 engaged to partners.
Part of the difficulty in reporting this is that someone who is forced into a marriage may feel intimidated. In some cases it may be suggested that reporting it will bring shame upon the family and in the most extreme cases will be subject to assault and murder (what are often referred to as “honour killings”.)
In other cases there may be gifts or financial incentives involved as well. In future assessing a Partner migration Australia application may well involve more questions regarding the nature of a relationship in addition to current guidelines regarding family migration to Australia.
These new changes will be in addition to current partner immigration rules. For example since September 2009 family immigration Australia applications involving a child have required a police check. It is likely that if new rules regarding forced marriage are made law then these checks are likely to be extended with regard to the validity of a marriage.
The Australian government is sensitive towards cultural differences and the immigration website emphasises its dedication to diversity and respecting other cultures. However what is clear is that any new legislation may have an effect on the partner migration process. Please contact our team of professional migration agents to see how these changes could potentially affect your Australian visa application.