Three people have been charged in connection with the alleged forced marriage of a 20-year-old Victorian woman who later died in Western Australia, purportedly at the hand of the man she was forced to marry.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) arrested a 44-year-old woman and 22-year-old man who are related to the victim, along with a 30-year-old woman, in the regional city of Shepparton this week.
Three arrests in Victoria this week
The AFP Human Trafficking Team and Victoria Police executed search warrants across two residential properties in the city after arresting the trio.
According to a statement from the AFP, detectives first had contact with the victim in August 2019, when they met with her.
She alleged at the time that members of her family were threatening and coercing her into participating in a forced marriage, organised by a woman in her community.
Victim declined police intervention
The AFP statement said she was offered police intervention and protection, emergency safety planning, and alternative accommodation via the Red Cross Support for Trafficked People Program (STPP).
The woman was offered assistance to leave her situation on several occasions, the statement said.
It is alleged the 20-year-old woman was coerced into marriage with a Western Australian man in a ceremony held in Shepparton in November, 2019.
Travelled to WA with new husband
The AFP alleges the woman did not freely consent to this marriage. The woman then travelled to Western Australia to live with her husband.
In January this year, the Western Australian Police Force Homicide Squad confirmed the death of the victim, with a 25-year-old man charged in connection to her alleged murder.
The two women and man arrested this week have been charged with causing a person to enter a forced marriage under section 270.7B (1) of the Criminal Code (Cth).
AFP highlights that help is available
This is only the second time this charge has been used in the state of Victoria.
AFP Southern Command Acting Commander Investigations, Jayne Crossling, said while it can be incredibly difficult for vulnerable victims to come forward, there is help and protection available.
“This is a particularly tragic example of a vulnerable victim in an alleged forced marriage situation, and underscores why the AFP dedicates significant resources to this issue nationally,” she said.
Must be consent from the victim
“We understand that removing a person from an anticipated forced marriage situation, or interceding with family members without the consent of the victim, can risk creating a more harmful domestic situation for a vulnerable person,” she said.
“The AFP’s position is to accommodate the person’s wishes with their overall welfare in mind. However, we want victims to know that the AFP and its partners can assist victims, offer protection and intervene, where appropriate, through a range of mechanisms including border alerts and court orders.”
Crossling said the AFP recognised and appreciated the assistance that members of the public, particularly from within the local Afghan community, have provided in relation to this investigation.