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Australia tackles forced marriage, people trafficking

Posted on Feb 27, 07:32PM | IANS

Canberra, Feb 27 : The Australian parliament Wednesday passed new laws that criminalize forced marriage, forced labour and organ trafficking.

"Marriage should be a happy occasion, not one that is entered into by force. Sadly there are people in Australia, and Australians overseas, who have been coerced, threatened or deceived into marriage," said Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.

There will now be a maximum penalty of seven years' jail for anyone trying to force vulnerable people into marriage, reported Xinhua.

"Not surprisingly, people forced into marriage may be too afraid to come forward. We urge people to speak up so the community can come to grips with the full extent of this criminal activity," Dreyfus said.

The laws also include a new standalone forced labour offence, which means that labour exploitation can be prosecuted wherever it occurs, including where the victim is not moved across a border.

Previously, forced labour was only criminalized where it was connected to the offence of people trafficking.

The amendments to the Commonwealth Criminal Code, under the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Bill, will ensure all forms of exploitation are addressed.

The amendments will establish new offences of forced marriage and harbouring a victim, and standalone offences of forced labour and organ trafficking; broaden the existing offences of sexual servitude and deceptive recruiting for sexual services to apply to all forms of servitude and deceptive recruiting, regardless of industry; ensure those who help third persons commit people trafficking, slavery or slavery-like offences can be charged as well as the primary perpetrators of those crimes; and increase the penalties for existing debt bondage offences.

"While government action is an important step, strong community support is also critical. NGOs working with victims strongly support these changes and we look forward to working closely with the community to eliminate exploitation in all its forms," said Dreyfus.