Dowry and coercive control issues must be better addressed
By Jerome Doraisamy, Lawyers Weekly, 19 November 2020
Australian law is currently falling short in effectively dealing with domestic issues afflicting culturally diverse or minority communities, argue two advocates.
In the words of Pallavi Sinha, “the law sets the standard for what is or is not acceptable in society”. Unfortunately, when it comes to dowries and coercive control, there are currently insufficient mechanisms in the Australian justice system to address issues that give rise to domestic and family violence in culturally diverse communities.
A dowry, Molina Asthana explained, is the transfer of money, property or gifts from a woman’s family to her husband upon marriage. The practice is common across South Asian, South-East Asian, Chinese, African and Middle Eastern countries and global communities. Australian law does not currently have the requisite mechanisms to address dowry-related violence, she said.
“Two of the biggest challenges this creates is that the Family Law Act does not adequately or consistently enable victims of dowry abuse to recover dowry provided by the victim or their family in the event of divorce proceedings, including those gifts exchanged in other jurisdictions and for it to be factored into property settlements during separation and divorce, to be recognised as property (typically belonging to the woman),” said Ms Asthana, who is the new vice-president of the Law Institute of Victoria and the vice-president of the Asian Australian Lawyers Association.
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