Christian group threatens parents

Konrad Marshall

A powerful Christian organisation has threatened a small grassroots parent group with legal action for posting its religious curriculum book online.

The main provider of religious instruction in state schools, Access Ministries, this week warned activists from Fairness in Religion in Schools (FIRIS) to remove a copy of its teaching materials from their web site.

Access Ministries, which delivers “Christian Religious Education” to around 90,000 Victorian primary students, contacted FIRIS after learning that a digital copy of its Launch Red 1 teacher book was available for download.

“We are very disappointed to see this clear breach of copyright law,” said Access Ministries acting CEO Dawn Penney. “In line with our rights under law we have asked that the material be removed within 21 days.”

The leaders of FIRIS, however, were initially reluctant to meet the terms of the cease-and-desist letter from Access Ministries, which also delivers the controversial chaplaincy program in schools.

“Access is using its taxpayer funds to sue a grassroots group run by ordinary mums and dads.” - Lara Wood

FIRIS explained to Fairfax Media that they did not post the material for commercial gain but to offer parents “informed consent” before enrolling their children in the weekly 30-minute religious instruction classes.

“Parents have never been able to know what is taught to their children in SRI classes, and Access has now taken steps to shut down the only way that parents could look at the books,” said campaign co-ordinator Lara Wood. “Access is using its taxpayer funds to sue a grassroots group run by ordinary mums and dads.”

Access Ministries, however, pointed out that although they do not post the full set of lessons, they do offer an overview and a short “sample curriculum” online.

“We feel that no one is above the law and that this obvious breach by FIRIS required a response by us,” said Ms Penney.

The spat has also prompted FIRIS to renew its calls for the Education Department to immediately enforce the terms of a ministerial direction handed down earlier this month, which requires SRI providers to make learning materials available to families.

The Education Department called for patience, noting that the ministerial direction does not take effect until 14 July. At that time a new consent form will be offered to families, with a link to learning materials.

From: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/access-ministries-uses-taxpayer-money-...

Resident threatens Docklands street artist

Karl Quinn

As loading bays go, there can't be many more colourful, vibrant or intriguing than the one at the Quays, a new apart­ment development in [Melbourne's] Docklands. But like beauty, sacrilege, it seems, is in the eye of the beholder.

One resident of the building is so offended by the two wall murals by Adrian Doyle that she has demanded they be painted over. Immediately.

If they are not, she claims, she will be "pursuing this matter formally through the Human Rights and Equal Oppor­tunity Commission and the media".

Along with a yet-to-be-installed sculpture by Callum Morton, the mur­als from Doyle, the entrepreneurial street artist behind the Blender gallery and Melbourne's street art tours, were commissioned by the building's design­ers, McBride Charles Ryan. Doyle was paid about $10,000 for the works, which took him and an associate about a month to complete.

"These images ridicule the Christian faith and degrade women." - Docklands resident

On Tuesday night [27 May], the owners cor­poration heard a submission from the resident, a lawyer, that the works are sacrilegious (one features a depiction of a Christ figure crucified on a tele­graph pole) [see attachment] and racially offensive (the other features an infant crying; the complainant has interpreted this child as being indigenous, though Doyle in­sists she is not). She has also taken issue with an image of a woman hang­ing out the washing.

"These images in the context of the entire mural depict Australia, in partic­ular Docklands and our building, as a Christian-hating, sexist, racist and op­pressive society," the resident wrote. "These images ridicule the Christian faith and degrade women, and I am dis­gusted to think that this is what mem­bers of the public would think the resid­ents of the Quays support." Doyle had already agreed to replace the face of the Christ figure - modelled on his own father, and meant to repres­ent "all that he sacrificed for me" - with a Ned Kelly mask, but is resisting all other efforts to alter his work. The owners corporation is understood to be taking the matter very seriously.

For Doyle, there's a certain irony in all this. No shrinking violet, he most re­cently courted attention last September when he painted the entirety of Rutledge Lane, which runs into the more famous Hosier Lane, pale blue, obliterating the work of many of his fellow street artists.

"Yeah, of course I see the irony in the situation," he says. "But that was a very different context. I wasn't go­ing over major art works. Some people might argue against that, but it's true."

That gesture, which had the support of lord mayor Robert Doyle (no relation) and some street artists, but drew opprobrium from others, was about rejuvenation. His "work" - he called the colour "nursery blue", and describes it as "representing my nephew Beau, who drowned in our family swimming pool" - was never intended to last. Within 45 minutes, the first tags had begun to appear on top of it.

The murals at the basement of the Quays are a different matter. Like his 49-metre-long wall mural outside Crown, officially unveiled by Robert Doyle in June 2012, it is a serious work that explores the suburban dream. The Christ figure is meant to be his father, "because of all he sacrificed for me". The Howard Arkley-style house is, he says, modelled after his nanna's. The coastline is his home town, Frankston [metropolitan Melbourne].

It's not hard to see how those images might resonate in an environment that has, for many, supplanted the tradition­al notion of home ownership in Austra­lia. And several residents have in fact written to Doyle to expresstheir support.

"It is meant to ruffle a few feathers," Doyle says of his work, but "I'd be very upset if it got painted over.

"I'll go all the way with it if I have to," he adds defiantly. "If they want to take it to the court, I'll just have to do it."

From: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/resident-demands-apar...

Education Federal funding increase for Christian chaplaincy group

Benjamin Preiss [and] Ben Butler

The group that provides chaplains and Christian religious instruction to Victorian schools expects a surge in demand after the federal government revealed plans to re-move the option for schools to hire a non-religious welfare worker.

Accounts filed by Access Ministries showed it has already reaped the benefits of increased federal chaplaincy grants, which have turned around its finances after running at a loss for four consecutive years.

The latest financial statement from Access Ministries showed it was given $5.7 million by the federal government for the 2013 calendar year, compared with about $5 million for 2012.

The government has allocated $245 million over five years for the national chaplaincy program in the budget.

Access Ministries’ acting chief executive Dawn Penney said the increase in federal grants was due to the expansion of the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program and new schools joining from June 2012.

“The program is so highly valued.” - Dawn Penney

Ms Penney said the guidelines for the program for the coming three years were yet to be released.

“However, we expect all of our current schools to be able to re-apply for funding, along with even more schools as the program is so highly valued by school communities,” she said.

Grants from the state government fell by more than $48,000 in 2013 to about $635,000.

Remuneration to “key management personnel” rose from $842,849 to $910,955. Ms Penney said the management team included eight people in 2013.
“Some positions were vacant during 2012 and 2013 saw us return to a full compliment,” she said.

“This figure includes salary, compulsory superannuation and all on-costs associated with an employee.”

Australian Education Union Victorian branch deputy president Justin Mullaly said the existing chaplaincy arrangements allowed schools to hire secular welfare staff. “Often that was in the form of a social worker or psychologist,” he said. “It allowed schools to get the professionals they needed.”

He said the union opposed the changes the federal government plans to introduce. Mr Mullaly said schools with students from diverse religious backgrounds could be disadvantaged if they were able to hire only religious chaplains who were mostly likely to represent a Christian faith.

He said the money allocated to Access Ministries could be better spent elsewhere in the education system. That sum could hire about 50 teachers, Mr Mullaly said.

Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy said she was astounded the federal government had given Access Ministries more than $5 million for 2013.

She said schools should continue to have the option of hiring secular chaplains under the program.

From: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/schools-to-lose-se...

Abortion debate dodgers just moral cowards, says Shaw

Henrietta Cook [and] Richard Willingham

Balance-of-power MP Geoff Shaw has demanded a fresh debate on Victoria’s abortion laws, revealing that he warned Premier Denis Napthine in a private meeting that governments dodging the issue were “moral cowards”.

The Frankston MP is back from a taxpayer-supported study trip to the United States, where he met pro-life advocates in Georgia and Nevada. “I learnt over there that governments that don’t debate the abortion issue and become] pro-life are moral cowards,” he said.

Mr Shaw met the Premier on Tuesday but it remains unclear if he will introduce a private member's bill to outlaw gender selection and late-term abortions, and require doctors to resuscitate babies who survive late terminations.

The former Liberal turned independent MP said Dr Napthine had intimidated Coalition MPs by releasing a YouTube video in December declaring the government had no intention of introducing legislation that would “reduce a woman’s right to choose”.

“It makes it harder for Liberal Party people to vote with a conscience,” he said.

After their meeting Dr Napthine said he “knew nothing” about a report alleging the parliamentary privileges committee investigation into Mr Shaw would be released this week.

Mr Shaw told The Age he was considering going to the police to ask them to investigate multiple leaks of sensitive details to the media from the committee.

On Tuesday [27 May] Dr Napthine said the government did not know if a bill on changing abortion laws was being introduced.

From: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/geoff-shaw-lashes-mps-as-moral-cowards...

“Monks” in scam

Tammy Mills

Scam artists pretending to be Bud­dhist monks are duping Melburnians and visitors to the central business district. Con­sumer Affairs Victoria and the Buddhist Council of Victoria have issued a warning about con men in robes asking for money in ex­change for prayer beads, amulets and spiritual guidebooks.

Buddhist council spokeswoman Susan Wirawan said they had re­ceived numerous complaints in the past six months. “Monks do go out on the road and look for
alms, but usually they accept food. They don’t go out soliciting [money],” she said.

A Consumer Affairs spokes­woman said if people had doubts they should donate direct to organ­isations.

From: http://newsstore.fairfax.com.au/apps/viewDocument.ac;jsessionid=BDBE9944...

Shaw catches up with controversial doctor

Nick O’Malley - United States correspondent

Victorian balance-of-power MP Geoff Shaw met one of America’s most controversial Tea Patty-backed congressmen during a United States study tour of abortion laws, Fairfax Media has learnt.

In a photograph posted on the Facebook page of pro-life group Georgia Right to Life, Mr Shaw is pictured beside Paul Broun, a medical doctor best known for accusing US President Barack Obama of seeking to create a dictatorship and for his extreme stance against science.

During a 2012 election rally, the congressman from Georgia in the Deep South, famously declared: “All that stuff I was taught about evolution,
embryology, the Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a saviour.”

In the photograph, posted on 16 May, Mr Shaw stands next to Dr Broun and his wife Niki, before a banner reading, “Georgia Right to Life”. The caption underneath reads: “At Georgia Right to Life we always seek to bring the message of Personhood to others, even if they’re not from our home state. Today we were honoured to have Geoff Shaw, a member of Parliament from Australia, visiting with us to learn more about what we do to protect the preborn and how he can bring the strategies we use back to Australia with him.”

A staff member for the organisation was unable to say if Mr Shaw and Congressman Broun spoke at any length or met in passing.

When contacted on Saturday morning [24 May], a spokesman for Mr Shaw said the independent member for Frankston was on a plane returning from the
US and he had little detail on his two-week trip, partially taxpayer funded.

Mr Shaw plans to introduce a private member’s bill before the November state election, which would outlaw gender selection and late-term abortions
and require doctors to resuscitate babies who survive abortion attempts.

American pro-life campaigners have enjoyed significant success against abortion. Recent laws passed in Georgia prevent women covered by the state employees’ insurance agency from getting coverage for terminations in almost all cases, including rape and incest. They impose a 24-hour waiting
period for women seeking an abortion and mandate women be given literature on alternatives to abortion as well controversial advice on how foetuses
feel pain.

According to earlier reports, Mr Shaw’s trip also took him through Ohio, another state considered to be on the front line of the US debate over abortion. No post-viability abortions are allowed and waiting periods and counselling on alternatives are also mandated. State employee health plans may not cover the procedure and girls may not have abortions without parental consent. Women seeking abortion must be offered the chance to see a foetal ultrasound and hear the foetus’s heartbeat.

The advocacy group NARAL Pro Choice America gives Ohio an F grade for its abortion laws.

But it is understood Mr Shaw also visited two states with comparatively liberal abortion laws, Nevada and New York.

Last week Mr Broun, a member of the US House of Representatives, failed to win a primary run-off to contest a Senate seat. Some Republican analysts feared he might have cost the Republican Party a Senate seat at the November midterm elections because of his extreme views.

With Jill Stark

From:
http://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/2304938/geoff-shaw-meets-contr...

Victoria to consider gay adoption

Henrietta Cook [and] Farrah Tomazin

Premier Denis Napthine says he is not opposed to same-sex couples adopting children in Victoria, but is waiting for some “proper science” before the government decides whether to change the law.

Days after state Labor endorsed a policy platform in favour of legalising gay adoption in Victoria, Dr Napthine was not philosophically opposed to the idea, saying “the modern family today is quite different to the nuclear family of the 1950s”.

In a move welcomed by human rights groups, the government will examine the matter in coming months, with research being undertaken by Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown and a parliamentary intern.

From:
http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/napthine-open-to-allowing-gay-adoption...

Euthanasia group fears police raids

Tammy Mills

Victorian members of a pro-euthanasia group fear police raids after warrants were executed across Australia over the importation of a lethal drug, according to group leader Dr Philip Nitschke.

Two people, from Western Australia and Queensland, were charged with importing the illegal drug Nembutal, and state police have spoken to 10 others in Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia in the past month.

Dr Nitschke, director of Exit International, said on Friday morning [23 May] that police action had spread a ripple of fear through the group’s 6000 members, including more than 1000 Victorians.

He said members feared they were on a police hit-list and were concerned investigators assessed the group’s database.

“Victorian members are saying they want to know if their information has been compromised,” he said. “It has caused a lot of alarm.”

Dr Nitschke said the raids might also shut down one of the easiest ways people could access a drug that was used by veterinarians to put animals down.

He said some of the group’s members were ordering the drug online from a Chinese company that mailed it to them.

“Members are very keen to access this drug, not because they’re sick, but because they’re getting on in years,” Dr Nitschke said. “They think it’s a very good idea to have this in place in case they might need it, in case they get to the stage where they’re too sick and have to ask their husband or wife to do the ordering and the person assisting can be looking at very serious legal consequences.”

Since the raids, Dr Nitschke said, the Chinese company ceased supplying to Australia because it was “not worth it”.

Rupert Ward, 69, of Albany, was charged a month ago with possessing an illegal drug while Brisbane woman Lynn Afotey-Otu, 64, was charged with
importation of the drug last week.

Mr Ward will face a WA court next Thursday [29 May] while Ms Afotey-Otu will face a court in Queensland on 2 June.

For help or information call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651251 or Lifeline on 131114, or visit beyondblue.org.au

From: http://www.smh.com.au/national/euthanasia-advocates-fear-police-raids-20...

DOWRY'S DARK SHADOW

Indian women living in Australia suffer domestic violence stemming from a tradition that some say should be outlawed. Rachel Kleinman reports.

Jessica* came to Austra­lia in 2012 after an arranged marriage in India. Her Indian husband already had permanent residency here, and she left her family
and country behind to start a new life with him in Melbourne's western suburbs. Back home, Jessica had completed post­graduate studies, she had a career and came from a family with liberal values.

Now, just two years later, she is separ­ated, recovering from the trauma of domestic violence and locked in a long legal battle to claim her dowry, which remains in India in the hands of her husband's parents.

"This is just a kind of torture for me and my family," Jessica says. "I am all alone here. At least if I get back my dowry articles that would be fine. . . It would give me back a bit of financial security."

To make matters worse, Jessica came here on a spousal visa. When the marriage broke down, her husband wrote to the Immigration Department saying
he wanted to revoke his sponsor­ship of her.

If she returned to India, Jessica would face the social stigma of being divorced. She is now applying for per­manent residency, which her visa allows if she has suffered domestic violence.

Many Indian women in Australia tell similar stories, and there is a push to ban the dowry in Victorian state law. As the state's Indian population hits 190,000 there are claims the dowry increases a woman's powerlessness and causes tensions between families that can lead to relationships breaking down and, in some cases, contribute to domestic violence.

Dr Ravinder Thiara, a British aca­demic from the University of Warwick who specialises in gender, race and vio­lence, told Fairfax Media that the dowry "has huge links to domestic violence".

Also, there are claims that Indian men with permanent residency in Aus­tralia are being "auctioned off" by their families to the highest bidder. The family of a potential bride that offers the highest dowry gets the prize of a son-in-law with Australian residency.

Melbourne psychiatrist Dr Manjula O'Connor, who was born in India, is lead­ing the push to get the dowry banned in Victoria. Last month, former Victorian premier and serving Hawthorn MP, Ted Baillieu, tabled a petition in Parliament calling for 2008's Family Violence Act to be amended to outlaw the dowry. A United Kingdom politician has made similar calls in Britain.

This is a highly complex issue. The dowry has been banned in India since 1961 but it is a tradition that refuses to bow to the law. Thiara says that despite being illegal it is sometimes voluntarily given by the bride's family, but mostly because the groom's family expects it.

"Young men need to understand [the dowry] will not be tolerated in Australia." - Dr MANJULA O'CONNOR

Thiara questions whether any dowry ban can be effective, given the evidence from India. "It is hard to see how a ban on dowry can be implemented so, rather than criminalisation, is prevention through education a better avenue to pursue?"

Even the definition of dowry is com­plicated. In India, it is a centuries-old tradition where the bride's parents present gifts of cash, clothes and jewellery to the groom's family. Also, women there are not entitled to any inheritance or property rights so, historically, the dowry purpose was to provide the bride with financial security should anything happen to her husband.

However, in recent decades it has morphed into an economic transaction between the two sets of parents and often becomes a "price" for the groom.

Dowry-related violence in India has a huge impact on women's lives. India's National Crimes Bureau reported one woman every hour died in India in 2012 because of dowry-related crimes. Previ­ous figures showed that in 2007, 8093 women were killed and 3148 took their own lives because of dowry
disputes.

In 2012, Melbourne's Indian com­munity was rocked by a spate of horrific murder-suicides within families. Twelve people, including five children, died in the space of a few months. In the first case, the bodies of a couple and their children, aged 5 and 3, were found in their Glen Waverley home.

Weeks later, a woman and three sons died in a Clayton South house fire. Soon after, the bodies of a couple, recently arrived from India, were discovered in their Blackburn home. Another Indian woman died months later when her estranged husband stalked her and set fire to her Kew house. He also died. These shocking events shone a light on family violence and mental health issues within the Indian population. Fairfax Media is not suggesting any of the 2012 deaths were dowry-related.

Most families live harmoniously, but Indian community leaders recognise that family violence is a substantial problem. The question of whether the dowry contributes is highly divisive.

Dheen*, a professional man in his early 30s, came to Melbourne's southern suburbs from India eight years ago. He has an intervention order against him after his arranged marriage became violent. Dheen says no dowry was in­volved in their marriage. The problem of family violence comes from the male-dominated culture rather than dowry-related conflicts, he says.

"The man is the leader in the house, the authority. The woman has to follow that because he is the breadwinner, the wife and children will depend upon him, so they have to listen to him. The men use their power: that is the main reason for domestic violence in the Indian com­munity."

Dheen is now getting help from Manjula O'Connor in how to manage his anger. "I couldn't deal with the problems and ended up solving the problem with violence and ended up getting into trouble,"

Dheen says that, historically, the dowry gave a bride confidence in her financial future. "Now it has become a social evil: people try to demand more money from the bride's family and it becomes harassment for the girl's family."

O'Connor herself has been ostracised by sections of the Indian community for her outspoken approach to family violence and campaign against dowry.

Vasan Srinivasan, president of the Federation of Indian Associations of Victoria, does not believe dowry is a major issue. And he says the research funding that O'Connor secured to ex­plore the issue of domestic violence could have been spent on community services.

"We were not impressed. Our ser­vices include crisis accommodation and food donations . . . and legal support. We felt that money could have been better spent," Srinivasan says.

"Problems with dowry are very rare. It has already been outlawed in India; I don't think we need to worry about that here," Srinivasan says. He also claims that O'Connor inflates figures of "how many Indian men beat their wives" and he insists that "we do respect women in our community".

But Indian relationship counsellor Muktesh Chibber, who has a Melbourne-based private practice and also works for Relationships Australia, argues that dowry tears many families apart, hurt­ing both men and women.

"Problems with the dowry are very common," Chibber says. "This is a ter­rible issue; the Australian system, along with government in India, has to do something. It is not one way: I have seen men in terrible situations too. Some­times the problem is with the in-laws."

Ted Baillieu is backing the dowry ban after he was contacted by O'Connor dur­ing his time as premier. A number of her Indian female patients came into his office and told their stories. "They were pretty horrific stories," Baillieu says.

"Getting people to understand that domestic violence is a crime is the start­ing point. Even now you'll get people who hesitate about that. Dowry is clearly part of the issue . . . there are cultural pressures that are historical."

Jacky Tucker is family violence man­ager at Women's Health West, which provides services across Melbourne's western suburbs. She knows of at least two Indian women who took their own lives because they felt their family situ­ation was so desperate. The service supports many women who have arrived from India on spousal or student visas.

"Sometimes the woman is fleeing from the in-laws rather than the partner; the abuse is coming direct from them."

Within Indian culture, once a woman marries, she traditionally "belongs" to her husband's family. She is expected to live under their roof and is often directed and controlled by her husband's parents. If they aren't satisfied with the dowry paid by her parents, this can be a trigger for abuse.

Tucker supports a change to Victori­an law. "Dowry is a tension within the community . . . it's reasonable to say there's certain circumstances . . . where dowry is misused as a threatening tactic against women."

Women's Legal Service Victoria policy and projects manager Pasanna Mutha says Indian women are the service's second biggest client group. "[Dowry] is definitely a really important issue for our clients. It is very hard for them to get their dowry back [if their relationship breaks down]. It may be being held in India by the in-laws."

O'Connor, who sees many domestic violence victims in her private psychia­try practice, is also a senior fellow at Melbourne University's School of Popu­lation and Global Health. Last year she founded the Australasian Centre for Human Rights and Health along with Melbourne lawyer Molina Asthana, who originally practised in India.

O'Connor readily acknowledges that many people are unhappy with her approach. But she is determined to continue her crusade. "Young men need to
understand [the dowry] will not be tolerated in Australia, just as it is not tolerated in India by law," she says.

O'Connor will meet state Attorney-General Robert Clark in June to discuss the next move. Baillieu says the issue may be referred to the Victorian Law Reform Commission.

O'Connor also met federal Social Ser­vices Minister Kevin Andrews earlier this year to discuss potential changes to spousal visa conditions. "I hope to make dowry acceptance - asking, taking or giving dowry - a breach of visa condi­tions. This will bring down domestic violence rates," she says.

Jessica is in limbo while she waits for permanent residency to be granted. Meanwhile, her parents have filed a com­plaint in India against her husband's parents to try to get her dowry back. Although the dowry was theoretically hers, the in-laws insisted on holding it for her. This is a common scenario. She says tensions between herself and her hus­band's family grew during the two-year marriage as they demanded control of her finances, her movements, what she wore and her contact with her own fam­ily. At one point, her husband started checking the car's kilometres to make sure she had not been out without his permission.

As she tells her story, Jessica appears composed, highly articulate and haunted by a sense of disbelief about what happened. Her husband first became violent after she told him she was fed up with his criticism. He punched a hole in the wall. "I was so worried by this, I did not know what was going on and I didn't tell anyone," she says.

From then, the violence escalated. On one occasion, after Jessica refused sex, he broke the TV remote control. Follow­ing another terrible argument, he hit her in the face. In the days afterwards, he apologised. But when he started pushing and abusing her again during a subsequent argument, Jessica called police and obtained an intervention order.

She is now sharing a house in Mel­bourne's south with another Indian woman and has casual teaching work. "He has made my life really hell. I just want my mental peace of mind. I am on antidepressants and having counselling," Jessica says.

"But I don't want to go back to India because there is such a stigma attached to being divorced and I don't want to be a burden on my family. So
that is why I am trying to get my life back together here."

* Jessica and Dheen are assumed names.
Rachel Kleinman is a Melbourne journalist. Twitter: ©rachelekleinman

For help or information call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251 or
Lifeline on 131 114, or visit beyondblue.org.au

From: http://www.smh.com.au/world/dowrys-dark-shadow-20140522-38ris.html

Family violence Law change - Dowry ban push gains momentum

Rachel Kleinman

Women’s rights advocates and former premier Ted Baillieu are pushing to have the Indian practice of dowry banned in Victoria amid claims it leads to domestic violence and the abuse of women.

Mr Baillieu tabled a petition in State Parliament in April calling for amendments to family violence laws. Economic abuse was made illegal under the Family Violence Act in 2008, but campaigners also want a specific ban on the dowry, which would bring state law into line with Indian law.

The move has caused deep rifts within the state’s 190,000-strong Indian community.

Manjula O’Connor, an Indian-born psychiatrist and research fellow at Melbourne University, said the dowry must be outlawed.

Dr O’Connor said through her private practice she saw many women who had suffered dowry-related domestic violence.

“Paying a dowry belittles the woman, it reinforces their role as inferior in the relationship and it makes the marriage an economic transaction,” she said. Sometimes a man’s family was unhappy with the amount paid and this could trigger violence and abuse against his wife or in-laws.

Paying and accepting a dowry is a centuries-old tradition in India where the bride’s parents give gifts of cash, clothes and jewellery to the groom’s family. It has been illegal in India since 1961 but is still widely practised in arranged marriages.

Mr Baillieu was contacted by Dr O’Connor when he was premier. “Dowry is clearly part of the issue faced by these women,” he said. Dr O’Connor will discuss the issue with state Attorney-General Robert Clark. Mr Baillieu said the matter may be referred to the Victorian Law Reform Commission.

India’s National Crimes Bureau reported that 8233 women died in 2012 due to dowry-related crimes. Many others took their own lives.

“Pay up or die”

One woman in her late 20s was horrified at the turn her arranged marriage took. Tanya (not her real name) got married in India to a man who had Australian residency.

His family demanded cash for a car, jewellery, clothes, household goods and a deposit for a house: a total of about $46,000.

After the couple moved to Melbourne, her husband and his parents pressured her to ask for money from her father’s retirement fund.

When they could not get access to the money, she was presented with divorce papers and threats were made against her life. Tanya is now attempting to rebuild her life and is applying for permanent residency.

From: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/move-to-ban-dowry-practice-among-india...

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