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Committee recommends minimum marriage visa age limit

Committee recommends minimum marriage visa age limit

A senate committee has suggested that the minimum age for applicants to the prospective marriage visa program should be increased to 18 in a bid to stamp out forced marriage and human trafficking.

The Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee identified that certain changes need to be made for the protection of applicants - including raising the minimum age requirement.

Even just one instance of forced marriage should be considered a "gross abuse of the victim's human rights" and that such violations should never be tolerated.

If making changes to the prospective marriage visa program allows these abuses to be eradicated, then the committee argued that such steps must be taken.

Some concerns were voiced that this may increase instances of documentation fraud in relation to migration visas, although the committee believes this to be a risk that could easily be addressed.

Committee member senator Michaelia Cash said that objections had been raised by the department that it would not be reasonable to impose an age restriction for a visa that enables people to be lawfully married in Australia.

However, the inquiry believed this was not a valid concern and that it would be "perfectly reasonable to require an applicant to be of lawful marriageable age when granted a visa to enter Australia in order to marry an intended spouse".

Evidence had been drawn from a number of different countries where such a measure had proved successful, including the UK and Norway.

Recommendations were made by a number of parties that opportunities for victim support should be increased for migrant women, while the wider Australian community should receive better education in these matters.

"Based on the evidence that we received, the committee came to the conclusion that this would be a worthwhile initiative for prospective-marriage visa holders and other partner visa holders that could be instituted either at interview or upon arrival in Australia," noted senator Cash.

She explained that newly arrived migrants may benefit from receiving an information package on the prospective marriage or partner visas, which the committee heard could easily be produced.

The packs need to contain information on Australian law in relation to forced marriage and family violence, as well as where victims are able to seek assistance.

Women and men in Australia benefit from the ability to consent to marriage, which is something that migrants should also be able to embrace when they arrive in this country.


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