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Family violence, dowry and 'fake cases' in Australia's Indian community

Source: Pexels

As the Senate inquiry into dowry abuse in Australia is currently underway in Canberra, SBS Punjabi spoke to an experienced social worker, who has handled several family violence cases in Australia's migrant communities, including many in the Indian community.

Brisbane-based social worker Jatinder Kaur has worked on at least 30 cases of domestic and family violence in the Australian Indian community, apart from dozens others involving other migrant groups.

She has helped establish a shelter for female victims of violence who flee domestic abuse, and is also a member of the Queensland Parole Board.

Ms Kaur will be making a submission to the dowry abuse Senate Inquiry, having personally "received emails from several Senators" to share her experience.

She spoke to SBS Punjabi about a broad range of issues that are peculiar to family violence cases pertaining to the Indian community - covering female and male victims of violence, dowry as a form of domestic abuse, and the Senate Inquiry.

She needed head surgery

"Less than three weeks ago, I became aware of a terrible case that happened in Melbourne. A young woman had been beaten up so mercilessly by her husband, that she was in critical care at a major hospital. She received severe head injuries and had to undergo a surgery".

"She has since been released from hospital and is recovering. Her husband has been charged on 12 separate counts and the case will be heard in the coming weeks."

'I don't believe dowry was an issue in this case, but financial abuse was. The victim was the main bread-earner in the family, and the permanent residency application was under her name. Her husband didn't have a legal status to live in Australia on his own."

"I have spoken to the victim after she was discharged from the hospital. The tragedy is that even now, she feels conflicted whether she should giver her husband another chance. She worries about her future without a partner and still hasn't decided whether she'll move out to a refuge or not."

Male victims of violence

"Over the past 24 months or so, I've been involved in two cases of family violence where the victim was a male."

"There was one case of a Punjabi Sikh man whose inter-racial relationship became the reason for his mental and emotional abuse. He had fallen in love with a Muslim woman, and his family had disowned him."

"His partner belittled him often, manipulated him and exercised financial control. She demanded that he convert to Islam, and the man became extremely depressed - ashamed even."

"Often, violence isn't physical - it can be emotional,  financial and controlling behaviour, and even men become victims."

"But largely, it is women who are subjected to family violence. I would say 90 to 95 percent DV victims are female and 5-10

percent are male."

The husband's family demanded a dowry of $30,000 AUD

"I would say at least half the cases of family violence in the Indian community that I have worked on, had some sort of financial abuse. So not just dowry, but denying the woman any access to money, and controlling her financially seems to occur quite frequently in domestic violence cases involving Australian Indian families."

"And there are specific cases where dowry is an issue. In one particular case, the couple had already been married - and the demand for dowry came well after marriage. The bride's family was asked to provide $30,000, or else, they would have to 'face the consequences'.

"And I know of cases where the demand for dowry is made before the marriage takes place - apart from gold and gifts, a lavish wedding is sought."

"I have known of cases where women are threatened with violence if dowry isn't paid, or even with divorce."

'But it must be remembered that dowry isn't only practiced in India - there are many other cultures where it is quite common."

Fake dowry cases on men

"Yes I have heard about several cases in our community, where the husband claims his wife made false accusations that his family had demanded a dowry."

"I am aware of fake dowry cases slapped against men, either to gain control, or to achieve an immigration outcome. This is happening in our community." 

Senate Inquiry into dowry

"I have been approached by several Senators to make a submission to the dowry abuse inquiry which is currently underway. I will talk about all the cases I have dealt with and will present my recommendations."

"The single most important thing for our community is education. They need to be better informed."

"And with regard to current Australian law, I'm deeply concerned that several women on temporary visas don't receive any protection from the government. Many migrant women fall in this category - including female students and others on temporary visas. The law must be changed to protect them."

To find out more about the Senate inquiry, click here.

Any individual or organisation can make a submission to the parliamentary inquiry before 17 August, 2018.

The Inquiry Committee will present its recommendations in December 2018.

NOTE: “If you or someone you know is impacted by domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit http://www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.”

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