Three people have been charged after a young Victorian woman was allegedly forced into an arranged marriage with a man, two months before he allegedly murdered her.
A 44-year-old woman and 22-year-old man, who are related to the victim, along with a 30-year-old woman, were arrested in Shepparton on Tuesday.
The Australian Federal Police said the trio have all been charged with causing a person to enter a forced marriage, the second time the charge has ever been used in the state of Victoria.
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“In August 2019, AFP Human Trafficking Team detectives met with the victim who alleged members of her family were threatening and coercing her into participating in a forced marriage, organised by a woman in her community,” the AFP said in a statement.
“She was offered police intervention and protection, emergency safety planning and alternative accommodation via the Red Cross Support for Trafficked People Program.”
The AFP said the 20-year-old woman was offered assistance to leave her situation on several occasions, however she was later “coerced” into marriage with a Western Australian man in a ceremony held in Shepparton in November last year.
“The AFP allege the woman did not freely consent to this marriage,” authorities said in a statement.
The woman then travelled to Western Australia, where she lived with her husband.
However, in January this year, WA police confirmed the death of the young woman who was allegedly found with stab wounds in her Perth home.
A 25-year-old man, believed to be the woman’s husband, has since been charged in connection to her alleged murder.
Jayne Crossling, AFP Southern Command Acting Commander, said the case is a “tragic example” of a vulnerable victim in an alleged forced marriage situation.
“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.”
Acting Commander 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.
“Human Trafficking including forced marriage does not discriminate. This issue goes beyond borders or religious affiliation.
“Victims of human trafficking can be male or female, adults or children and come from all walks of life, community, nationality and culture.”
If you or someone you know is being forced to marry and you need immediate assistance you can call 131 AFP (237) or use our online form to report information regarding human trafficking.