Australian Institute of Criminology

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In this report, what is known about human trafficking involving marriage and partner migration to Australia is described, drawing on primary information obtained from victim/survivor testimonies, stakeholder knowledge and expertise, and reported cases that progressed through the Australian justice system. While past research has focused on commercial labour and sexual exploitation, this report draws attention to trafficking that can occur in non-commercial contexts.

Although forced marriage has increasingly gained attention over the past three years and a small number of legal proceedings have substantiated attempted or actual cases of forced marriage involving girls and young women, less attention has been paid to the exploitation of migrant brides in other ways. This research is the first in Australia to confirm that marriage has been used to recruit or attract women to Australia for the purposes of exploitation as domestic servants, to provide private or commercial sexual services and/or to be exploited in the home as wives.

The lack of data and information on human trafficking generally, and on human trafficking involving marriage and partner migration specifically, has implications for the way the problem is conceptualised, measured and responded to. While current knowledge in related areas, such as violence against women in general, violence against migrant spouses, domestic violence and sexual violence, can provide information on the context and environment in which human trafficking involving intimate partner relationships can occur, this research provides the first evidence of this form of human trafficking in Australia.

Although exploratory in nature, this research makes a significant contribution to the limited body of knowledge on exploitative marriages in the context of human trafficking, providing an initial insight into the nature of this crime. Further, more detailed assessment, is required to understand the extent of the problem and to inform prevention, detection and enforcement strategies.

Adam Tomison