Marriage visa age raised to 21


by Sunny
25th March, 2007 at 10:24 pm    

The minimum age at which foreign nationals can receive marriage visas to enter Britain is to be raised from 18 to 21 in an attempt to crack down on forced marriages, writes David Cracknell.

It will mean that about 3,000 people a year, mainly women from India, will be prevented from coming to the UK. Their intended spouse will also have to be at least 21 for them to be allowed into the country. The government also intends to introduce confidential interviews for people entering the country who might have been forced into marriage.

The Metropolitan police have called for forced marriage to be made a criminal offence, suggesting a link between the practice and “honour” killings and arguing that it would make prosecutions easier. However, the government has rejected this. [The Times]

I don’t have a problem with this. There are still far too many cases of girls as young as 16 are married from South Asia and brought here as brides. I would go as far as preferring 24 but 21 is better than 18.


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  1. Indigo Jo Blogs

    Marriage visa age to rise…

    BBC NEWS | Politics | Marriage visa age to rise to 21 The Government have announced that they are raising the minimum age for acquiring a marriage visa to the UK from 18 to 21, ostensibly in order to reduce……




  1. lithcol — on 25th March, 2007 at 11:46 pm  

    Brings us in line with a few other European countries. I am of the opinion that those involved in forced and arranged marriages should be criminally prosecuted. Any individual has the ultimate rights to decide their own future.

    Whether I like the choice of my child’s partner is neither here or there . It is their choice. I have absolutely no right to determine who they choose. If I use force or the threat of violence I should be aware that there are adverse consequences.

    It should, through education, also be made explicit that marriage to close blood relatives can result in medical complications. This has no racist or cultural relativist conations’. The disastrous results of such relationships can be observed all over the world.

  2. Desi Italiana — on 25th March, 2007 at 11:47 pm  

    Namaste, Sunny! Long time, no comment.

    “I would go as far as preferring 24 but 21 is better than 18.”

    I see what you are saying, but that’s assuming that at a certain age, someone has the free will to say “no” (or “yes”). But there are cases of people who are 24/post 24 years of age that get forced into doing things they don’t want to (especially if their livelihood and survival is dependent on the familial and social structure.)

  3. Desi Italiana — on 25th March, 2007 at 11:56 pm  

    Lithcol:

    “Any individual has the ultimate rights to decide their own future.”

    Yes, in theory that’s ideal, but in reality, a lot of people don’t have the resources to be able to go onto another path. Like how I said above: many people are embedded in a familial and social structure that makes their lives dependent on the mechanisms of that structure. The institution of marriage is co-opted into this structure and is another mechanism. So saying “no,” running away, etc- how feasible is that for someone? Where would one go outside of the home, when the home is the easiest source of survival? And home is often regulated by social norms.

    “It should, through education, also be made explicit that marriage to close blood relatives can result in medical complications. This has no racist or cultural relativist conations’. The disastrous results of such relationships can be observed all over the world.”

    Er…what are the disastrous results of such relationships all over the world?

    Medical complications arise out of non close blood procreation as well. And close blood procreation (as far as I know) resulting in medical complications is when there is a medical problem that runs through the family and thus, increases the chances of that child inheriting said condition (ie something that is hereditary.)

  4. Sunny — on 26th March, 2007 at 12:25 am  

    I see what you are saying, but that’s assuming that at a certain age, someone has the free will to say “no” (or “yes”). But there are cases of people who are 24/post 24 years of age that get forced into doing things they don’t want to (especially if their livelihood and survival is dependent on the familial and social structure.)

    Hello Desi! Agreed, but the older the woman is, the more self aware and educated she is likely to be…. hence if she comes here, even if forced or not, she has the chance to escape or do something if she’s facing domestic violence. Raising the age is one way of dealing with it. Of course there will always be caveats and exceptions to the rule. But for me, the higher age the better.

  5. lithcol — on 26th March, 2007 at 12:27 am  

    Technically, cconsanguineous marriages result in more malformations in issue than those that outbreed. Ultimately, the congregation of lethal genes leads to still birth or early death. Some may escape immediate complications, but eventually inbreeding does lead to very severe medical complications.

    We are indeed born into family structures, however it is also the case that many societies accept that their young will do what they do. They do not use violence or the threat of violence to enforce conformity to the will of the family.

    Am I to assume from your gnome de guerre that you are Italian, then let us consider the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Yes the power relations are complex and in their case, as with many in the modern world, the outcome is tragic.

    Do you not think that individuals are autonomous human beings that have the right to determine their own futures? We are born. We grow. We hopefully develop as autonomous thinkers and we become what we become. Tough if the family is so rigid that it does not accept that their children are who as they are. Parents have no right to determine the future of their children.

  6. Kulvinder — on 26th March, 2007 at 1:09 am  

    I’m confused how altering the age at which you issue marriage licences affects the causality of forced marriage. What exactly is meant to happen to the social dynamics between 18 and 21? You may as well claim rejecting every 10th person who applies affects forced marriage. Or start rain dances.

    If i were a cynic (moi?!) i’d say this was a pretty superb way of passing anti-immigration legislation under the guise of helping ethnic-minorities whilst winking at the conservative flank of your government.

    The laws in Denmark were given an air of being benevolence, but there wasn’t any real attempt to cover their real rationale. The implications of those laws on the people they were trying to help is questionable.

  7. Kulvinder — on 26th March, 2007 at 1:13 am  

    *The laws in Denmark were given an air of being benevolent, but there wasn’t a real attempt to cover their rationale.

  8. Desi Italiana — on 26th March, 2007 at 1:18 am  

    “I’m confused how altering the age at which you issue marriage licences affects the causality of forced marriage. What exactly is meant to happen to the social dynamics between 18 and 21?”

    Yeah, I agree with Kulvinder.

    “If i were a cynic (moi?!) i’d say this was a pretty superb way of passing anti-immigration legislation under the guise of helping ethnic-minorities whilst winking at the conservative flank of your government.”

    Oho, nice one, Kulvinder. I didn’t think about that.

    Love you Kulvinder, from one cynic to another.

  9. lithcol — on 26th March, 2007 at 1:30 am  

    You are a cynic Kulvinder. There is a problem. Young women in certain communities are under pressure., and so are some young men. The several thousand who can enter this county after marriage is miniscule in comparison to illegal immigration. To me it is not important. What is important is the misery of forced or arranged marriage against the desires of the individuals involved.
    Screw cultural traditions, a mature individual has choice. If it is against the family orconvention, tough.
    I assume you Kulvinder are an autonomous human being?

  10. Kulvinder — on 26th March, 2007 at 1:38 am  

    I assume you Kulvinder are an autonomous human being?

    …I do whatever my mistress tells me to do, sometimes im naughty and she spanks me really really hard. I think thats what you’re asking.

    Obviously forcing two people to do something they don’t want to do is bad and should be stopped. Bringing in shitty ineffective legislation isn’t the way to go about stopping it. Apparently Identity Cards will stop all forced marriage, terrorism and speeding.

  11. lithcol — on 26th March, 2007 at 1:40 am  

    Cynics of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your humanity. Get real. I love A. Parents don’t agree. Why? Give me your reasons. I may reply that your arguments are prejudiced. They may reply it is against family honor. We need to cement alliances. She/he is not of the right class etc. Bullshit. Whatever you think Kulvinder, any individual has the right to do what they do without interference from others. Cultural conformity regarding the choice of who is to be your chosen one! Fuck off. I don’t usually use such expletives.

  12. Kulvinder — on 26th March, 2007 at 1:43 am  

    I have absolutely no idea what you’re trying to say.

  13. lithcol — on 26th March, 2007 at 1:52 am  

    Hey, didn’t need identity cards. I fell in love with my wife of 20 odd years before knowing her antecedents.
    You have a peculiar line of argument Kulvinder. I Know Sunny loves you, warts and all, but sometimes I think your arguments are like farts in a gale. Undetectable, even with the most sophisticated of instruments
    Just remembered that poet,
    Philip Larkin – This Be The Verse
    They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
    Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

    Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
    Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

    Perhaps Kulvinder you may agree. I of course do not, but then I am not a cynic. I am not totally constrained my immediate environment, and thank goodness many aren’t. Otherwise how would progress be possible?

  14. Desi Italiana — on 26th March, 2007 at 1:52 am  

    Lithcol:

    “Young women in certain communities are under pressure., and so are some young men.”

    This is absolutely true, lithcol.

    “Screw cultural traditions, a mature individual has choice. If it is against the family or convention, tough.”

    Ok, but how? The majority of Indians live in rural areas, not cosmopolitan areas where they could arguably eeke out a living all on their own (this is not necessarily always true, given the fact that Indian middle class families in the city engage and perpetuate similar, if not the same, structures). In many cases, the family unit is the basis of survival, life, relations, and so on. Furthermore, you’re assuming (it seems) that all people are literate, “educated,” independent, and actually have the social, economic, and political resources to actually go on their own way. First, that doesn’t mean a whole lot. You can be literate and “educated” and be remarkably ignorant. Second of all, it doesn’t necessarily free you from social/familial constraints. And thirdly, the fact that many lack their own resources is the biggest problem of all. To put it simplistically, if people had this, it would be easier for them to say, “no way, Jose.”

    “Parents have no right to determine the future of their children.”

    Right, but often the structure is set up whereby children are dependent on their parents, and hence, parents can bend the fate of the children.

    “Do you not think that individuals are autonomous human beings that have the right to determine their own futures? We are born. We grow. We hopefully develop as autonomous thinkers and we become what we become.”

    Yeah, but hello, we are usally influenced and are products of our environment to varying degrees. None of us are detached free ballers. The minute we are interacting with another human being we are being social. Try as we might, but we are not totally cut off from “society”. Problem is not how divorced we are from society, but the society itself.

    (NOTE: I’m definately not arguing that therefore, we should allow the status quo to keep being the status quo simply because we’re in it, implicated in it, and are in some ways dependent on it as the moment.)

    I think I’m starting to veer off now by metacriticizing…

  15. Sunny — on 26th March, 2007 at 1:59 am  

    Heh, Kulvinder being against against legislation… who would have thought?

    I think the fact that so many young British Asian men choose to marry someone from the sub-continent is a problem in itself. The fact that they choose to many very young girls from there is also a problem. If the marriage age is raised, how exactly won’t it solve the problem?

    Sure, it restricts migration too. But 3000 women in an annual influx of near 250,000 is a drop in the ocean. I doubt if Blair was trying to use this as a wink, many on the anti-immigration side would be impressed.

  16. Desi Italiana — on 26th March, 2007 at 2:06 am  

    Sunny:

    “I think the fact that so many young British Asian men choose to marry someone from the sub-continent is a problem in itself. The fact that they choose to many very young girls from there is also a problem.”

    Second ones, yes, I see it as a problem. But why the first one? And also, though it happens less often (I think), there are also women who marry dudes from the subcontinent.

    If you are going to say “Oh, well, girls and women from the subcontinent are more submissive and easy to control,” I’d respond that it’s not the ladies from the subcontinent are more “submissive,” but it might be easier for a guy to maintain a hold over her in terms of him making all the money, her not being familiar with the laws and legal structure of said country, etc. But I’ve met some people who have transnational marriages whereby the lady from the subcontinent is far from meek, passive, has a degree or two, and so on (again, this doesn’t strictly mean that power dynamics are absent. BUT, it also doesn’t mean that every single subcontinental marriage is unhappy, all subcontinental men are oppressive, and all subcontinental women are oppressed, meek, passive, etc.)

  17. lithcol — on 26th March, 2007 at 2:06 am  

    Desi,
    I a sympathetic to what you say. It is easy for me in a Western democratic society to hold the views that I do. Bright working class lad met upper middle class girl at university in the early seventies. Fell in love, lots of opposition, eventually got married and still are.

    Fortunately my environment allowed a happy outcome. I would like such freedoms to be universal.

    Yes environment does have a significant influence but it is not deterministic, just as genes aren’t.

  18. Kulvinder — on 26th March, 2007 at 2:10 am  

    I think your arguments are like farts in a gale.

    What an evocative simile.

    In order for a law to have any affect it has to effect the causation of what its trying to change. It has to respect causality. Introducing I.D. cards will have no impact on speeding; similarly introducing that legislation will have no impact on the sociological causes of forced marriage. A person will be as vulnerable to forced marriage at 21 as they were at 18.

    Instead of helping anyone in peril, those laws may harm them (as the Danish sites i linked to pointed out). The government needs to keep its conservative flank happy whilst avoiding conflict with its more liberal members. So it dresses legislation designed to appeal to those against immigration by talking in terms that appeases those against forced marriage.

  19. Kulvinder — on 26th March, 2007 at 2:17 am  

    If the marriage age is raised, how exactly won’t it solve the problem?

    Because people will just wait until they’re 21 before getting married? The license itself is just piece of paper, they could still be forced to respect the marriage at 18 or whatever. Infact it may help, you force two people together at age x, fly back and forth make babies etc, at the age of 21 you apply for the license, and show that you have a steady longterm relationship.

  20. lithcol — on 26th March, 2007 at 2:20 am  

    I do agree Kulvinder.
    The drinking of alcohol in many American states is prohibited before the age of 21. Guess which states have the most problems with underage drinking?

    I thing the argument I am trying to make is that individuals have the right to make their own decision as to who they form relationships with. If the law can help then it should be implemented. Underage drinking is of course not the same as forced or underage marriage.

    You have a mistress, I assume she has a mister. Hope there is equality in this relationship.

  21. Desi Italiana — on 26th March, 2007 at 2:26 am  

    Lithcol:

    “It is easy for me in a Western democratic society to hold the views that I do.”

    “Fortunately my environment allowed a happy outcome. I would like such freedoms to be universal.”

    Well, no, that’s not what I was saying or getting at… but hey.

  22. Kulvinder — on 26th March, 2007 at 2:28 am  

    If the law can help it should be implemented. A law shouldn’t be dressed up to give the appearance it will help.

    I’m sorry for the confusion, i didn’t mean mistress in the sense of cheating on a partner…rather the type of mistress who handles a whip.

  23. Sunny — on 26th March, 2007 at 2:32 am  

    Second ones, yes, I see it as a problem. But why the first one?

    For reasons you yourself outlined. I was in a discussion on Asian nework on the morning of my recent documentary on the plight of overseas brides. Most of those who wanted to marry a girl from Asia said they wanted to do so because they wanted a meek bride who would look after their parents and cook for them. Is it any wonder that brides from south asia are over-represented in domestic violence cases here?

    Kulvinder: The license itself is just piece of paper, they could still be forced to respect the marriage at 18 or whatever.

    I’d rather the age be raised to something like 24 to have meaningful impact… but an 18 year old who hasn’t even gone into further education or work is likely to be marginally more vulnerable than a 21 year old.

  24. Kulvinder — on 26th March, 2007 at 2:40 am  

    You’re missing the point, the license as issued by the government is just a piece of paper. The ‘marriage’ itself could have taken place regardless – several years before the government chose to recognise it. For the sake of argument if there was a ceremony in a Gurdwara or whatever at 18 the people would to all intents and purposes be ‘married’

    At its worst the decision to force marriage could be taken at birth, the government choosing to recognise that at 21 doesn’t change the fact its happened.

  25. Sunny — on 26th March, 2007 at 4:03 am  

    And how many British Asians are likely to go over to get married and then wait around for 3 years before they can bring their spouse?

  26. Desi Italiana — on 26th March, 2007 at 4:06 am  

    “And how many British Asians are likely to go over to get married and then wait around for 3 years before they can bring their spouse?”

    There are people who wait that long, even longer.

    I think Kulvinder’s criticisms are legitimate.

  27. Sunny — on 26th March, 2007 at 5:32 am  

    There are people who wait that long, even longer.

    I’m not buying it, sorry. This is one way of dealing with… I guess raising it to 24 would make the window even smaller.

    Just to emphasise, there are several issues here.

    1) Young girls being brought here, some as young as 16, as wives. This has been documented many times and one of the reasons why Ann Cryer has been making it an issue.

    2) Forced marriages.
    As far as I can see, raising the age makes both of them marginally harder. It’s not a huge change, but a positive change IMO nevertheless.

    I’d love to hear better solutions to the problems.

  28. Arif — on 26th March, 2007 at 9:59 am  

    Sunny (#27)

    Issue 1 – If young people getting married is a problem in your opinion, then I think you should advocate everyone not being able to marry until 21 – otherwise I feel there is discrimination.

    Does this also mean that people who are married abroad would not have their marriage recognise by the State if they move to the UK unless they are both over 21?

    Issue 2 – Many things can make forced marriages more difficult, which will equally make love or unforced arranged marriages more difficult. The trick would be to find a way of targeting what makes a forced marriage forced.

    I would suggest that any registrar of a forced marriage be prosecutable and all people licensed to marry others be given mandatory training to recognise and report suspected forced marriages. I don’t know if this is already the case.

    I would also suggest those community organisations which upset Picklers by arrogating to themselves the right to represent us, be offered funding to research and find ways to challenge forced marriages in their own communities. Since they would like the funds and the self-importance, this can be used to remove some of their own reticence about tackling the issue as well as start a debate within communities run by the very people with the biggest incentive not to stigmatise those communities as a result.

    I would suggest diplomatic agreements with countries where forced marriages are more common to discuss protection under local law and whether and how the family and/or marriage licensor can be prosecuted and even extradited if they involve a UK citizen in a forced marriage.

    I would suggest soap operas and Bollywood blockbusters which show people involved in forcing marriages getting prosecuted and not just meekly realising they were wrong, or not accepting being thwarted but getting on with their lives anyway.

    I would suggest that people who wish to divorce on the basis that their marriage was forced be given free legal aid regardless of circumstance and given all the assets of a marriage, if they prove their case (as a deterrent).

    The problem is, as Desi Italiana mentions, that the dynamics are likely to be subtle (in the sense of being difficult to pin-point, and deniable if they are pinpointed) as well as all-pervasive. Finding a way that people can claim they are being forced prior to marriage, without it hugely hurting their family and their personal security and identity at that point, would be the holy grail solution. In the absence of that, I think the easiest way would be to make the incentives/sanctions on the unforced partner such that they would be terrified of the consequences of marrying someone who is forced. If both are being forced, then those incentives/sanctions should shift to both sets of parents.

  29. sonia — on 26th March, 2007 at 10:31 am  

    I think Kulvinder said it very well in no. 7 – unless Asian families are willing to marry their daughters off later, all this will involve is more lying about ages on passports.

    ( which there is plenty of already by the way..)

  30. sonia — on 26th March, 2007 at 10:32 am  

    i mean 6

  31. sonia — on 26th March, 2007 at 10:37 am  

    until people learn to be able to stand up to their parents – end of story – there isn’t going to be a 100%’solution’. not realising this or admitting is highly idealistic.

  32. sonia — on 26th March, 2007 at 10:38 am  

    so the problem is all about understanding the reality of the millions of individuals out there with their different realities..

  33. sonia — on 26th March, 2007 at 10:43 am  

    heh – this will start off a international storm i bet! Sunny you don’t seem to have realised that aspect of it :-)

  34. sonia — on 26th March, 2007 at 10:48 am  

    i wonder what the human rights implications are – for people in differentcircumstances to ‘forced marriages’ context> – So say 18 year old girl, somewhere in the world, who can’t join British husband – who could be say – 19, is trying to escape from a violent family where she’s from – dunno – say a gun-ridden neighbourhood – in Brazil – because she’s not 21. she’s got to stay in her parents home for the next 2 years, and her parents didn’t want her going off with this British bloke anyway.

    Well im sure she’s going to be impressed isn’t she?!

    So everyone who’s not 21 around the world with British partners – is going to be in the same boat- because some indian parents insist on marrying precious kids off to people in india?

    —-!!!

  35. sonia — on 26th March, 2007 at 10:49 am  

    this is a rubbish move on the Home Office’s part

  36. sonia — on 26th March, 2007 at 10:52 am  

    Unless the Govt wants to say this will only apply to visas received from women in countries of in the Indian subcontinent. in which case there will be different sets of issues – Sunny do you have any information on this?

  37. Rumbold — on 26th March, 2007 at 10:59 am  

    It may not be the answer to everything, but it should help some women. When you are 18 you are probably still living with parents, while at 21 there is a chance you may have gone to university, or at least gained a bit more freedom. 24 is perhaps a bit too old.

    What went wrong with your website Sonia?

  38. sonia — on 26th March, 2007 at 11:34 am  

    heh dunno Rumbold – what are you referring to?

  39. Roger — on 26th March, 2007 at 12:04 pm  

    Another reason for discouraging arranged/forced- and when does the pressure become so strong that it is force?- marriages:

    Ringleader [of the 2005 tube bombings] Mohammad Siddique Kahn made a video of his last will. Hassan Butt had met him but insists they never discussed specific operations. Khan told him he first became attracted to radical Islam because the tradition he grew up with was forcing him into an arranged marriage. The radical Imams were offering him a way out.

    “A lot of guys I know, actually, have become radicalized, or initially took the first steps towards learning more about Islam and their way of life as a result of them being tried to being forced to marry someone they don’t want to marry,” fromhttp://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/03/23/60minutes/main2602308.shtml

  40. Sunny — on 26th March, 2007 at 3:21 pm  

    husband – who could be say – 19, is trying to escape from a violent family where she’s from – dunno – say a gun-ridden neighbourhood – in Brazil -

    Sonia, there will always be some exceptions to the rule… you know prosecuting for rape means sometimes, once in a thousand maybe, an innocent guy gets done. But that doesn’t mean you don’t tro to prosecute for rape.

  41. Sunny — on 26th March, 2007 at 3:32 pm  

    Arif:

    Discriminatory, yes, but generally white people marry way past 21 and they don’t have the social problem of forced marriage or “honour killings”.

    To deal with forced marriage:
    I would also suggest those community organisations which upset Picklers by arrogating to themselves the right to represent us, be offered funding to research and find ways to challenge forced marriages in their own communities

    2) Generally, all the main ones have said its not a big issue (or more applicable to people of other religions (between themselves)) or it would only ‘demonise communities’.

    2) If you made registrars prosecutable none of them would want to then marry Asian families. FMs are legally annulled if found to be as such but that hasn’t stopped many.

    3) I would suggest soap operas and Bollywood blockbusters which show people involved in forcing marriages getting prosecuted

    Mmmm… an interesting idea just came to me. Generally I don’t think this will make much impact since neither of us have much influence with bollywood stars or soap makers…

    I would suggest that people who wish to divorce on the basis that their marriage was forced be given free legal aid regardless of circumstance and given all the assets of a marriage, if they prove their case (as a deterrent).

    Yes, I sort of suggested something similar recently and I believe Southall Black Sisters have something similar in mind. I did say in the tlk with Ann Cryer that the govt needs to provide blanket support to victims of domestic violence (from overseas marriages). The ones from here get govt support anyway if needed.

  42. Arif — on 26th March, 2007 at 4:01 pm  

    You seem to be saying that discrimination by creating different classes of citizen does not matter and (in response to Sonia) that you don’t think that it matters much if innocent people can’t marry or join their families in the UK. To you, this might seem a relatively trivial form of discrimination, and the number of people who suffer dramatically because of it may seem relatively low, but it doesn’t to me. Such a measure should be thought through for what other forms of discrimination it may later justify and what sorts of innocent people might suffer from it to avoid such consequences. If you don’t then it does look like caring for vulnerable minorities either doesn’t really matter to you, or you think your chosen minority is the most important. I hope the Government at least thinks these issues through.

    On your response to options I mentioned:

    1 – that’s the beauty of the idea of offering funding for research and for strategies to tackle the issue – it is an unthreatening way to increase their knowledge and concern about the issue and position them within their communities as opponents of forced marriage as part of their raison d’etre. By ofering funding, the cynical might suggest pretty soon, lots of groups will be screaming about what a problem forced marriage is in their communities and wanting the Government to take notice!

    2. That’s the reason I said there needs to be training to ensure that it does not end up as a form of discrimination. The registrars are there at the point when they are getting married and has to be convinced of its legality. They ought to be supported to pick up on cues and to follow them up according to guidelines which can protect all parties. Maybe they already are, I don’t know.

    3. I don’t influence the government any more than I influence Yash Chopra, but maybe Yash Chopra can more effectively spread stigma on forced marriages than the Government.

    4. It isn’t just about support, that is obvious, the problem is still whether people can avail themselves of the support. It was about changing the incentives facing people who think they will benefit from a forced marriage. The threat of losing all their assets, as well as the shame of it as dramatised by Hritik Roshan, and things going out of their control at key points (eg with a registrar or a quick call to no win no fee lawyers advertising every ten seconds on Geo TV) – that might be more effective, while protecting civil liberties and avoiding institutional discrimination.

    It might not work, but I’d try that first at least.

  43. sonia — on 26th March, 2007 at 4:19 pm  

    it might not be considered an issue whether people outside the country can marry their partners here – after all the nation state does not care about non-citizens obviously. fair enough! but it can still be argued that it may be an infringement on the rights of the British citizen involved – who wants their husband or wife to be allowed to join them.

    ah well. it all depends whose perspective people are considering. if people live in ‘asian communities’ and those communities’ concerns are the primary consideration, i daresay they’re not bovvered about anyone else.

  44. Anna — on 26th March, 2007 at 4:36 pm  

    A minor point, but to point out how little this country takes care of foreign women:

    Sunny said “hence if she comes here, even if forced or not, she has the chance to escape or do something if she’s facing domestic violence.”

    Recently I was talking with the domestic violence coordinator for my county, and she very nonchalantly explained that if immigrant women break the rules of their being here (for example, by leaving the spouse who is sponsoring them due to domestic violence) then they do not have access to domestic violence services as they are paid for by “public funds” and these women, having become “illegal” do not have recourse to public funds.

    Yeah. Seriously. I was a domestic violence counselor in Canada and the law there makes an exception for DV as an allowable reason to break the terms of your stay.

    I think the point of the laws discuss in this post is not that it will “solve” the problems of forced marriages and their fuzzier cousins, but that they’re one tool that can be used. I have illustrated that immigrant women in the most vulnerable situations do NOT have the same rights in the UK as citizens do, so yeah, we need whatever we can get. I have not had the stomach to sift through the whole discussion about whether or not it’s “discriminatory” but I think it’s fair to say that women coming to the UK to be married and more vulnerable and need more protection than UK citizens getting married.

  45. Chris Stiles — on 26th March, 2007 at 4:38 pm  

    You seem to be saying that discrimination by creating different classes of citizen does not matter and (in response to Sonia)

    How does this *create* different classes of *citizen* (which already exists in the division between nationals and citizens) ?

    Additionally, some of the sorts of screening described already goes on to discourage marriages contracted solely for the sake of immigration.

    that you don’t think that it matters much if innocent people can’t marry or join their families in the UK

    I presume it would be phased in over time – so in what way would this significantly different to not allowing people to bring in a partner who was below the age of 16? [In fact, I imagine the same issue could arise purely between the UK and US, given the differential ages of consent].

    I would suggest that any registrar of a forced marriage be prosecutable and all people licensed to marry others be given mandatory training to recognise and report suspected forced marriages.

    Would largely have the issue of moving forced marriages ceremonies to other locales offshore.

  46. Sunny — on 26th March, 2007 at 4:46 pm  

    but it can still be argued that it may be an infringement on the rights of the British citizen involved – who wants their husband or wife to be allowed to join them.

    This is the point both you and Arif raise. I’ve not denied it is discriminatory. But my point is that it will also help some people. Weighing up that some have to face discrimination with that some lives will be saved, I think I’ll go for the latter in this specific case. Why? Because I think people who are marrying someone from the sub-continent before the age of 21, without really getting to know them (which is likely) are basically marrying someone without complete consent.

    This is the scenario where your mother or dad have decided that you’re going to get married before uni, and have found someone for you in India / Pakistan and are taking you there soon so you can meet your prospective partner.

    Hopefully this legislation would put a stop to some of that. It will also allow authorities to make sure 16 year olds don’t get through here.

    If it is used to justify other sorts of discrimination then I can challenge that. But as it stands this is something I welcome.

    Young girls who come here as brides are in a very vulnerable situation. Until Asian families deal with it I’m happy for the govt to step in.

    As for influencing Yash Chopra… well that is not mutually exclusive with govt action.

    The threat of losing all their assets,

    I don’t think that is legally possible. But some are considering putting forward a proposal that if you bring over a wife then you have to put down a £20,000 bond, which will be withdrawn if she is found to have faced domestic violence.

    But then some people will accuse of the law being discriminatory….

  47. Sunny — on 26th March, 2007 at 4:51 pm  

    Anna: then they do not have access to domestic violence services as they are paid for by “public funds” and these women, having become “illegal” do not have recourse to public funds.

    A good point. I raised the point of about No Recourse to Public Funding thing in my doc. It is also a Southall Black Sisters Campaign.

    The govt does discriminate against women who are not British citizens. I pointed this out in my Times article too and raised it with Ann Cryer when I was in a radio discussion. She said that MPs do try and get around this by stepping in, but this only applies if its a sympathetic MP like herself, Marsha Singh and a a few others.

    If you’re an overseas citizen and want to run away from your husband, and are living in an area where your MP doesn’t care, then you’re in trouble basically. Then womens groups have to jump through all sorts of hoops to help you get funding.

  48. Anna — on 26th March, 2007 at 5:27 pm  

    Thanks for the backup. :) All that to say, getting out of an abusive situation is difficult for any woman, much more so for a woman who is in a strange country with few family and friends to help her out, not to mention with policy that prohibits her from using the services she’d need. Obviously we need to tackle this problem of lack of resources, (and I’m happy to see how much you seem to be participating in this) but it also makes sense to tackle the problem at the front end (ie through legislation like the age restriction) as well. Whatever weapons we’ve got, man.

  49. Arif — on 26th March, 2007 at 5:34 pm  

    Sunny, how many lives will be saved? Have you done an analysis? It sounds like guesswork.

    If you found over 21s (or 24s) are also vulnerable when the long engagment is over and they come to the UK, would you want to ban cross-national marriage across the board? Why not? Lives would be saved!
    If your solutions offer protection to non-UK citizens, would it not also give the same protection to UK citizens? If the benefits are great and the effects on innocent people minimal, should it not be equally to the benefit of UK citizens?

    But this also goes into the question of domestic violence which is a slightly different and much more pervasive issue from forced marriage. Obviously forced marriages are maintained by pressure: financial, psychological, intimidation, emotional blackmail, isolation and domestic violence is likely to be a part of it. I think you are looking at these forms of pressure sincerely, but in a very blunt way by using the law. If the law is going to police the private sphere effectively we are going to have a very different kind of society.

    If you want such a radically different society, I may agree with you (but I’d have to have a fuller understanding of how such a society would work), but if the government wants to pass a symbolic law saying “this shows how much we disapprove of forced marriages”, then I wouldn’t expect it to be any more effective than any other legislation against domestic violence.

    The last proposal you mention – a £20 000 bond – is also discriminatory, not least for people who aren’t wealthy. If it is a good idea, then everyone who marries in the UK should put down such a bond. As for whether my proposal is legally possible, I guess if you can pass laws to change the age of marriage, you can change laws to alter the rules governing divorce settlements.

  50. Don — on 26th March, 2007 at 5:55 pm  

    Would this proposal have any effect on a girl of 18 (or even 16) who is a UK citizen, forced into marriage with an older, non-UK citizen?

  51. Sunny — on 26th March, 2007 at 5:58 pm  

    f you found over 21s (or 24s) are also vulnerable when the long engagment is over and they come to the UK, would you want to ban cross-national marriage across the board? Why not? Lives would be saved!

    No, because then the marginal cost of introducing the legislation is much greater than the marginal cost of introducing / enforcing it.

    Your idea about seizing assets doesn’t really work either. The govt did moot the idea but decided it would become a swamp like the CSA – taking people’s assets is not easy as it sounds. Hence the 20,000 bond is a better option because it is a deposit in advance.

    If people can spend money to take the entire family to India/Pakistan to get married, then 20,000 is easily affordable I’d say.

    I think you are looking at these forms of pressure sincerely, but in a very blunt way by using the law. If the law is going to police the private sphere effectively we are going to have a very different kind of society.

    Hey, it worked by banning Sati, and it worked by allowing widowed women in India to re-marry. Y
    ou guys haven’t put a case forward why this is harmful other than that it discriminates against certain people (and in this case I’m happy with that).

    Other social remedies are also useful, but to be honest I have little faith in the ‘community leaders’ to push forward any positive social change.

    You say we should give them money to find out the causes. What if they swallow all that money and produce nothing of any benefit or use, because they don’t really care?
    Why not listen instead to MPs and other campaigners who do actually care?

  52. Case — on 26th March, 2007 at 6:26 pm  

    You’re all missing something here. Marriage per se is not a passport to the UK (no pun intended). For example, look at sections 1 and 5 of the VAF(2) form, which handles visa applications made by non-UK spouses, fiancees, civil partners and unmarried partners. In addition to a wide range of possible immigration windows for couples, there still remains an evidence burden placed on the couple to prove their relationship is not one of convenience. Further, once a probationary marriage visa is granted to the non-UK partner in a married couple, then after two years there is another proving point for the application for leave to remain indefinitely, using application form SET(M).

    I think that this proposed increase to 21 will have zero direct impact on reducing domestic violence to women, or reducing incentives for men from the sub-continent to take younger bride, or any of the areas discussed in this thread. The better route for the government to take would be to strengthen the evidencing and documentation processes at these two points, creating better and more subtle opportunities for advocacy by abused partners (sorry, this is quite a tough point to make clearly).

  53. Arif — on 26th March, 2007 at 6:38 pm  

    Sunny, what are your calculations for costs and benefits? i don’t mean this facetiously, but if utility is the crux of your argument, then I assume that there is some quantification of its actual impacts.

    1. How many forced marriages are there of UK citizens to non-UK citizens where the non-UK citizen is believed to have been forced and is under 21/24 at the time of marriage and would not have got married above the age of 21/24?

    2. How many unforced marriages are there believed to be of UK citizens to non-UK citizens who are not forced under the age of 21/24?

    3. How many non-UK citizens under the age of 21/24 feel threatened in their homeland and believe they are safer for having been able to join their UK citizen spouse?

    If the first figure is relatively high and the second and third are relatively low, I would be sympathetic to the policy.

    On seizing assets – assets seem to be legally assigned regularly by courts in divorced proceedings – or does it not work currently?

    On bonds – you seem to say the same thing – rich families who can afford flying around may also be able to afford bonds. Poor families or individuals might not. Wouldn’t it make it more likely that you would have to marry someone of your parents’ choosing? I don’t think I would have been able to afford to marry my wife under those conditions.

    The sati analogy is useful, if it is not a public act where those complicit in it are known to be so by others. If the law stopped private satis, then it would mean that making domestic violence or forced marriage illegal should be enough, there would be no problem requiring discriminatory laws. For me the problems are in investigating and intervening in private acts and dynamics, and allowing women to re-marry appears to me a more useful model, by changing incentive structures, extending rather than sacrificing liberty and equality.

    I am not asking you to have faith in community leaders, any more than you would ask me to have faith in the Government. I am discussing ideas that might work and how it would work, and thinking through possible obstacles. You seem to think that community organisations are evil, while I see them as merely institutionally corrupt.

    I am all for listening to campaigners and MPs, as well as community organisations, and you, Amir, Katy and Kismet Hardy etc. I don’t always agree.

  54. Arif — on 26th March, 2007 at 6:55 pm  

    Case, I understand what you are saying. I do agree that it is a possible point of intervention, but personally think that the dynamics go in opposing directions. As immigration controllers, they may be effective if the UK person is the one who is being forced to help. But a non-UK citizen would be under further pressure from the process. A probationary visa creates an incentive for the family they move to to curtail their freedom more closely, and the family they move from to continue blackmail to ensure they stay in line. If even a probationary visa is refused then a reason needs to be given, and if the reason is the officer believes the marriage is forced, then (if it really is a forced marriage) that would open the gates for the family to blame their forcee for doing it on purpose and they might not have any support for them to escape.

    The support to escape needs to be there first. Such border controls can militate against an immigrant wife/husband’s sense of security, and is a disincentive to escape, especially if the decision to allow entry is not final and can be revoked.

  55. sabbir — on 28th March, 2007 at 1:01 am  

    It may not be an answer to everything,but i would like to know what about the person who made arraingment and spent thousands of pounds who has already invited families and friend from uk and been looking forward to get marraige and for this big day to go pakistan.I hope that there should be some consideration for people who has planned theire wedding since 2004

  56. Old Pickler — on 28th March, 2007 at 1:45 am  

    A lot of sense from Sunny.

    Raising the age to 21 – 24 would be better – means that there is a greater chance that both parties will be better educated, in a position to support themselves, and will know their own mind.

    A genuine love match will mean people are prepared to wait.

  57. Sunny — on 28th March, 2007 at 3:37 am  

    Arif: I am all for listening to campaigners and MPs, as well as community organisations, and you, Amir, Katy and Kismet Hardy etc. I don’t always agree.

    Heh, don’t worry. I know you don’t always agree though I do appreciate your input. I don’t know how many marriages are forced, although my guess is over a thousand a year, since around 300 cases get reported. Maybe even as high as 3000 if only 10% of cases are reported.

    I don’t have any faith in the govt, I’m just saying this law can have positive benefits in restricting some people from marrying girls from South Asia who are too young.
    It’s a sledgehammer, I agree. But the problem is that socially, there is little movement within our communities to deal with this.

  58. gamil gharbi — on 28th March, 2007 at 7:04 am  

    but if it was ok in the old country don’t they have a right to do it.

    http://marginalizedactiondinosaur.net/?p=12

  59. Niels Christensen — on 28th March, 2007 at 12:00 pm  

    IT’s easy to criticise the danish 24 years rule

    But the main reason for the rule is to secure that some young women ( from muslim origins)achive an education and work experience before they marry.

    The alternative to this situation is that they get married as a 18 year old, they have children 2-4
    and then at 32-35 year old they have been living on welfare for the last 15 years and now they have to join the workforce.
    This life cycle is absolute contrary to the one chosen by danish girls.
    And it isn’t wery helpful for integration, that we have two different life cycles.
    The UNPD report (3) concludes that one of the main problems in the arab world is that the women isn’t active in the labour market.
    If we accept that the immigrants continue this tradition ex. in Denmark – and supported by a rather
    generous welfare system – it could mean a break up of a healthy society.

  60. Case — on 28th March, 2007 at 1:04 pm  

    Arif @ 54 – fair point!

  61. tn00001 — on 29th March, 2007 at 10:34 am  

    In some cases this may be true but in other cases its rubbish. It wouldn’t make no difference if a girl is 16 or 30 if her parents want to force them they can do that at any age. I got married when i was 21 and my wife was 16. Both of us out of our own will wanted to get married. We are happily married but still living away from each other because she is not old enough to get a visa yet. It should be up to the individuals and if they are married no law in the world should allow them to stay away from each other, especially in cases where there was no force in the marriage. There are many reasons why people from Asia are married at an earlier age then countries like England. The government should spend more time in under age sex, rapes, the abortion rate in the UK does anyone know what that is, young girls having a baby before being married. The only truth is the government doesn’t want more asians in England, this is them being racist because they now think that every asian is a terrorist!!!!!!!!

  62. Jay — on 3rd April, 2007 at 6:43 pm  

    Can I just clear up a couple of things for Lithcol.

    Arranged Marriages are not the same as Forced Marriages. In Arranged Marriages, both people have a degree of choice and can refuse. With forced marriages, the choice is taken away from them and this is wrong and needs to be dealt with although I’m not sure this is the right way.

    People shoul;d be free to marry who they want and if that means an arranged marriage from India then it’s up to them.

    Imagine the following scenarios:

    1. A 25 year old british born Indian marries a 19 year old indian girl and wants her to join him the UK. He has worked for a good 4-5 years aqnd has always paid his taxes and contributed to society. He has his own property and is not claiming any state benefits.

    2. A 19 year old Eastern European man who came to the UK two years ago wants to bring his 17 year old fiancee who he met whilst on a trip back home from the UK. He too has paid his taxes during his worklife in the UK but is not sure that he will eventually marry the girl.

    Is it not wrong that the first guy should not be allowed to bring his WIFE whilst the 2nd one will have no problem to bring his FIANCEE?

    Sure Forced marriages need to be dealt with but would it not be better to have stricter interviews for all non-european nationals with the requirement for more evidence such as family photos and evidence of regular contact?

  63. Mr Ahmed — on 5th April, 2007 at 10:20 pm  

    its all a nonsesnse this increase in age from 18-21. Not all marriages are forced, as many are love marriages.

  64. anna — on 19th April, 2007 at 8:36 pm  

    when is this 21year old law changing ?

  65. Sunny — on 19th April, 2007 at 8:43 pm  

    No idea, but they’ve made the committment to change it. Maybe in the next queen’s speech.

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