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  • Blair’s letter to Asian women groups

    by Sunny
    26th June, 2007 at 1:01 am    

    Tony Blair recently wrote an open letter to various Asian women groups to offer his support on legislation around forced marriages. He has finally started paying some attention to this problem and I’m glad of that.
    Here’s the letter.

    I am writing to you because I know how effectively you have campaigned for action against forced marriages and your close involvement with Lord Lester in shaping his Private Member’s Bill on this important issue. So I wanted to tell you personally about the Government’s intention to support the Bill and to help strengthen the protections it gives to prevent people being married against their will.

    Forced marriages are an inhuman and highly damaging practice and we are determined to take seriously our responsibility to prevent them and support the victims. As you will know, the Government has already made progress in this area.

    We have already raised from 16 to 18 the age for gaining access to the UK for the purpose of marriage and are now consulting on increasing it again to 21. We have also set up the joint Foreign Office / Home Office Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), the only one of its type in the world. The FMU works closely with our consular offices and now helps around 300 victims of forced marriages a year. Some of those it helps are as young as ten.

    But the Government has also accepted that more needs to be done. Forced marriages are already against the law but a national consultation exercise last year strongly suggested that specifically criminalising them might not be effective so we have looked to see how better use of existing legislation, civil remedies and the family courts could increase protection.

    Lord Lester’s Bill, which you have helped draft, is very much along these lines. By extending the reach of the Family Law Act, it will give the courts powers to prevent forced marriages or, where one has already taken place, to remove the victim to safety. Breaches of injunctions would be contempt of court and could lead to arrest. The Bill would also enable relatives and friends to appeal to the court for protection of the victim in a forced marriage.

    The Government has also worked with Lord Lester to strengthen and widen protections against forced marriages from the original proposals in the Bill. This, in particular, includes tougher action against third parties who can help coerce people into marriage. The overall impact of the Bill will be to make it easier to protect victims and for the courts to intervene to stop this illegal activity.

    Government support for the Bill, of course, means that these added and much needed protections now have a much greater chance of becoming law. I am very pleased that we have been able to work with you on these proposals and believe they will have a big impact in stamping out this cruel practice.

    Tony Blair


    Sent to:
    Southall Black Sisters
    Ashiana Network
    Rights of Women
    Hounslow Domestic Violence Network
    Asian Family Counselling Service
    Khatun Sapnara
    Newham Asian Women’s Project


    Don’t want to make it sound like this is my doing but I complained about Labour’s inaction in The Times in February, just before Blair’s u-turn.

    This Government, instead of making small noises about deploring violence against women and not tolerating so-called honour killings, needs to take firm steps in fully supporting such women if they face domestic abuse. At present most victims face not only difficulty getting access to social support but also have to go to extraordinary lengths to prove they are genuine victims.

    Labour has also failed to take meaningful action against forced marriages, which is part of the broader problem.

                  Post to

    Filed in: Sex equality

    8 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. bikhair — on 26th June, 2007 at 1:23 am  

      So adorable!

    2. ciara — on 26th June, 2007 at 10:32 am  

      Don’t know if anyone was listening to the Today programme this morning, but they ran a very interesting report about honour killings. The full piece is on File on Four at 8pm tonight, apparently. It sounds really good.

    3. sonia — on 26th June, 2007 at 12:45 pm  

      “he’s finally just started paying attention to this problem”

      a bit late isn’t it, seeing as he was off as from yesterday. he seems to be as much of a procrastinator i am.

    4. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 26th June, 2007 at 1:13 pm  

      a bit late isn’t it, seeing as he was off as from yesterday

      LOL, to true, to true …

      bikhair, cry me a river …


    5. Kismet Hardy — on 26th June, 2007 at 1:17 pm  

      My girlfriend works for one of the organisations listed enough. Do you reckon Blair might pop by one day and make sure they get things like computers and printers and police alarms that work instead of letting all the money go towards filling up the head offices with objet d’art and feng shui?

    6. Nodn — on 26th June, 2007 at 1:36 pm  

      Which one @ Kismet Hardy?

    7. sonia — on 26th June, 2007 at 6:04 pm  

      well he might pop by now he’s a minor celeb trying to get some column inches

    8. Jeevan — on 27th June, 2007 at 9:17 pm  

      I hate to join in the cynicism here, but Tony Blair says this bill has a ‘greater chance of becoming law’ the day before he leaves power. Somehow, I don’t think Gordon Brown will hold this element of Blair’s legacy on his ‘things to do’ list. - Would be great if he did…although these are steps towards real progress..

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