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

The submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee in relation to its inquiry into the practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia was prepared by the Law Council.

The Law Council is grateful for the contribution of the Family Law Section, together with input from the Law Institute of Victoria and the Law Society of New South Wales to the preparation of this submission.

The Law Council notes from the outset that Australia, as a multicultural society, celebrates its diversity and the rule of law which unites us. Identifying and drawing attention to certain cultural practices by sectors of the Australian community requires thoughtfulness, temperance and a significant degree of sensitivity so as not to single out or discriminate against any particular sector.

Different viewpoints exist within the Law Council, and across the legal profession as a whole, about the need and purpose of targeting specific cultural practices. Concern exists where there is a risk that highlighting certain practices may incite cultural vilification and open the gateway for scrutiny of other cultural practices. Caution, in particular, is required in circumstances of media attention possibly overstating the statistical reality of any concern.

In the case of the practice of dowry, it is important to acknowledge that the practice is often steeped in the long and rich history of those cultures and is often based on practical considerations aimed at supporting the wife and consequently the newly married couple in their life together. Similarities can be drawn from other contemporary practices, including parents of Anglo-Saxon couples paying for the wedding or making gifts in contemplation of or upon marriage.

Nonetheless, it is also relevant to consider the laws of the countries in which these practices have been prevalent both historically and in contemporary times, specifically where such practices have been legislated against, or there are provisions prohibiting the abuse of those practices.

You can read the full submission below.

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