The practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia

On 26 June 2018, the Senate referred the practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee for inquiry and report by 6 December 2018. On 12 November 2018 the Senate extended the committee's reporting date to the second last sitting day in February 2019. The terms of reference are outlined on this page below. The deadline for submissions to this inquiry was 17 August 2018. However, the committee has decided to accept submissions beyond this date. 

You can ask the committee to keep your submission confidential. Confidential submissions are only read by members of the committee and the secretariat and are not published online. Please include the word confidential clearly on the front of your submission to request this.

Please note that while the committee welcomes and encourages all written submissions and other evidence, including from individuals, the committee is not able to investigate, assist or make findings in relation to individual cases of potential dowry abuse.

The committee's focus is on the broad issues raised in the terms of reference of the inquiry with a focus on explore the nature of dowry as a cultural practice, and the adequacy of current Australian policy settings and legal frameworks regarding dowry and dowry abuse.

If you or anyone you know needs help the services below may be able to assist:

  • 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)–the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line, which is able to assist people of diverse cultural backgrounds;
  • Lifeline (13 11 14)–Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services; and
  • Emergency services on 000 (triple zero) if you are in immediate danger.

Terms of reference

The practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia, with particular reference to:

  1. the extent and nature of knowledge regarding cultural attitudes to, the practice of, and the prevalence of dowry in Australia, both before and after marriage;
  2. the appropriateness and impacts of dowry as a cultural practice in modern Australia, taking account of our national commitment to gender equality and human rights, and approach to multiculturalism;
  3. reports of dowry abuse, including potential links to family violence, pretext for arranged marriage, forced marriage, modern day slavery, financial abuse, domestic servitude, murder, and other crimes, as well as any connections between dowry abuse and adverse mental health outcomes for affected women, including self-harm and suicide;
  4. the adequacy of the family law system, including how divorce and property settlement proceedings deal with dowry and dowry abuse, and the operation of and need for extra-jurisdictional (including international) enforcement mechanisms;
  5. confirmed and potential links between dowry, dowry abuse and forced and/or arranged marriages, both in Australia and in connection with Australia’s migration program;
  6. the adequacy of Australia’s migration law system in terms of addressing dowry and dowry abuse, including:
    1. the extent to which the requirements for spouse and family visas may enable or prevent dowry abuse,
    2. vulnerabilities experienced by women suffering dowry abuse as a result of temporary migration status, including disincentives to report dowry abuse and the ability of victims to access the family violence protections afforded by the Migration Act 1958 and associated regulations, and
    3. recommendations for change if necessary;
  7. training and reporting regimes that apply to Commonwealth, and State and Territory police forces and family violence services in relation to dowry and dowry abuse;
  8. investigation of laws and practices in international jurisdictions, in relation to defining dowry and combating dowry abuse, with particular regard to how these approaches could be applied the Australian context;
  9. the adequacy of current Commonwealth and State and Territory laws in establishing broadly accepted community norms and in preventing dowry abuse, and specific recommendations for change if laws need to be strengthened; and
  10. any other related matters.

Committee Secretariat contact:

Committee Secretary
Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee
PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: +61 2 6277 3560