New laws tackle forced marriage, people trafficking and other exploitation

New laws that criminalise forced marriage, forced labour and organ trafficking have been passed by the Australian Parliament today.

New laws that criminalise forced marriage, forced labour and organ trafficking have been passed by the Australian Parliament today.

"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.

"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."

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 criminalised where it was connected to the offence of people trafficking.

"Law enforcement agencies have found increasing numbers of people are being exploited in sectors other than the sex industry where a great deal of trafficking occurs," said Mr Dreyfus.

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, including by:

  • establishing new offences of forced marriage and harbouring a victim, and standalone offences of forced labour and organ trafficking;
  • broadening 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;
  • ensuring 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
  • increasing the penalties for existing debt bondage offences.

The new offences reflect the Government's commitment to ensuring Australia fulfils its legislative obligations under the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.

"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 Mr Dreyfus.