In an interview with Ray Hadley, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw has indicated that forced marriages may be a bigger problem than we think in Australia, as this sort of crime is “likely to be underreported”.
“It’s something that we’re working on with … diverse communities across the country to report the incidences of this particular horrible act,” the Commissioner said.
“We’re really encouraging the public to come forward … and we do take it seriously.”
Last month, three people were charged in connection to the alleged forced marriage of Ruqia Haidari, a 20-year-old Victorian woman, who was later allegedly killed by her 25-year-old husband, Mohammad Ali Halimi, in Western Australia.
The victim and perpetrators were part of the Afghani community, and two of the three perpetrators were members of the woman’s family.
About three months before the alleged forced marriage took place, Ms Haidari approached police saying that members of her family were threatening and coercing her into a forced marriage. She was offered police assistance and protection on several occasions.
AFP Investigations Acting Commander Jayne Crossling said while it can be incredibly difficult for vulnerable victims to come forward, there is help and protection available.
“This is a particularly tragic example of a vulnerable victim in an alleged forced marriage situation and underscores why the AFP dedicates significant resources to this issue nationally,” she said.
“We understand that removing a person from an anticipated forced marriage situation, or interceding with family members without the consent of the victim can risk creating a more harmful domestic situation for a vulnerable person.
“The AFP’s position is to accommodate the person’s wishes with their overall welfare in mind. However, we want victims to know that the AFP, and its partners, can assist victims, offer protection and intervene, where appropriate, through a range of mechanisms including border alerts and court orders.”
If you or someone you know is being forced to marry and you need immediate assistance you can call the AFP on 131 237.