MPs recommend specifically criminalising forced marriages – I agree


by Sunny
17th May, 2011 at 1:07 pm    

A report today by MPs from the Home Affairs Select Committee says forced marriages must be criminalised.

A bit of background is important here. Its not like forced marriages are legal right now: its just that law-enforcers focuse on stopping forced marriages by using existing legislation against coercion, kidnapping etc to stop a forced marriage.

Some Asian women groups have been against a law specifically criminalising forced marriages in the past because of fears that it might drive the practice even more undergound. I’ve never really understood that argument.

A few years ago the Forced Marriage Bill was quietly passed but it seems to have made little impact, partly because the bill had no teeth. I wrote about it then for CIF.

Now MPs including Keith Vaz say its time to go further. I’m not a fan of Vaz but I’m inclined to agree. The law is a blunt instrument but the UK needs to take a big symbolic (and legal) step forward and take action on forced marriages. It might even force countries like India and Pakistan to take it more seriously.


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Filed in: 'Honour'-based violence,Culture






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  1. Kismet Hardy — on 17th May, 2011 at 1:49 pm  

    Problem will always be that the backward uneducated pricks that send their 16-year-old daughter back home because ‘her grandmother is ill’, only for said grandmother to drug the poor girl, lock her in a room until she agrees to marry the village idiot… they don’t give a fuck about the law because community law will always rule in their tiny little minds.

    That said, any law that helps to throw grandmother and her pathetic little clan into a rotting cell and shove the key up their arses is fine by me

  2. Sarah AB — on 17th May, 2011 at 1:53 pm  

    Hello – I did a short post on this too

    I assume the committee thought about it carefully and concluded such a law would help deal with the problem better – on that basis, I agree.

  3. Cauldron — on 18th May, 2011 at 7:50 am  

    I’d be very suspicious of anything that Keith Vaz endorses. Vaz’ whole political career has revolved around pandering to the most uncouth and reactionary power centres in ethnic politics – the old men who run the temple and mosque committees; the oligarchs who made their money via the ill-gotten loot of Indira Gandhi and her venal spawn; and the diaspora cheerleaders for organisations who caused bloodshed on the streets of Colombo.

    If Vaz in favour of it, the legislation is probably toothless.

  4. Rumbold — on 18th May, 2011 at 8:29 pm  

    The problem with criminalising forced marriage has always been criticism from the victims themselves. Most victims, when interviewed, did not want their parents prosecuted, and it has been felt that any criminalisation would deter victims from coming forward, as they just want to be free, rather than see their parents behind bars.

  5. persephone — on 19th May, 2011 at 12:14 am  

    It appears that in no other crime does the reluctance of victims to pursue their abusers affect the criminalisation of abuse. On a level, the victims are trading their freedom for their parents freedom – they ought to realise that they are putting their own freedom below someone who cares little for theirs. And if they are being brought up in a subjugated way it will be hard to assert themselves, feel that they are owed just as great a freedom as their parents. So are the victims really a good basis upon which to base a decision?

    Hopefully, if brought in, it will in a % of cases be preventative. It may take the first victim who is prepared to take the position of holding the power in their hands by reporting their parents (if it was criminalised) that may make others at least stop and think and eventually come to realise that they are no longer in control.

    Otherwise not to do so means the parents maintain the very control which prevents them from obtaining what they want – freedom.

  6. Rumbold — on 19th May, 2011 at 9:21 am  

    Persephone:

    I take your point, but I wonder which other crime has a survey where none of the victims wanted their abusers prosecuted.

    The question is, what is the best way to reduce forced marriages? If you criminalise, you deter more (presumably), but also make victims very reluctant to come forward.

  7. Awakening Tempest — on 19th May, 2011 at 11:10 am  

    I agree in criminalising forced marriages, so long as they don’t mix up forced marriages with arranged marriages. As I believe many people who don’t have enough knowledge of culture and religion will categorise ‘arranged’ marriage as ‘forced’ marriage. There is a big difference between the two. The other point I want to raise is that forced marriages has nothing to do with religion – from my research and understanding is that no major religion Sikh, Islam, Hinduism, etc permits forced marriages. Therefore it is easy for people less educated in this area to believe or have the perception that religion is the root cause of this – which clearly is not.

  8. Sarah AB — on 19th May, 2011 at 11:29 am  

    Sounds fair enough. Clearly there might be circumstances where rather unpleasant pressure might be put on someone to agree to an arranged marriage – but there are many circumstances in which pressure is put on people, eg I remember some time ago a girl I knew succumbing to parental pressure to have an abortion.

  9. KJB — on 19th May, 2011 at 12:18 pm  

    I have struggled with how to feel about this for ages. Does anybody at all know if there has ever been an investigation into the lives of any women whose parents/relatives were convicted for ‘honour’ crimes, after the conviction?

  10. Kismet Hardy — on 19th May, 2011 at 2:47 pm  
  11. Optimist — on 19th May, 2011 at 3:24 pm  

    I think this is a subject we have to tread very carefully. If not handled with caution then it could easily provide an ‘open season’ to the racists and enemies of ‘multi-culturism’. So, instead of ‘forced marriages’ we may end up with ‘forced assimilation’.

    While I agree that we need such a law as a ‘stick’ we also need a big carrot – in the shape of increased education, giving more responsibilities to the schools to educate children about their rights as well as monitoring any signs of parental pressure. More education of parents via the Asian media as well as the religious and community places.

    The government also has to provide more money to help any unfortunate girls who may feel under pressure and want to escape the clutches of their families. But, with the pending massive public spending cuts, is the government going to put its money where its mouth is – or will it leave those poor girls high and dry and even in a worse position than before?

    Above all, I think our ‘chattering class’ has to fend off the ‘racist attacks’ while arguing against the elders and empowering the younger generation with ideas so that they could stand up for themselves and try to remove this scourge from our culture.

  12. Galen H — on 19th May, 2011 at 11:38 pm  

    “So, instead of ‘forced marriages’ we may end up with ‘forced assimilation’.”

    ‘Forced assimilation’ with the same laws and civilised custom of the rest of the population of not forcing people into marriage? Shocking. Whatever next?

  13. Sarah AB — on 20th May, 2011 at 6:25 am  

    As a kind of indirect response to some of Optimist’s points, I noted that the MCB didn’t want to criminalise forced marriage a few years ago because to do so might stigmatise particular communities.

    http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article691692.ece

    I think you can turn that the other way round and say that if groups such as the MCB take a firm line on forced marriage, and assert that it is against the teachings of religion, that would help destigmatise the communities and marginalise the small number of offenders.

    What I do think is fair to say, and I made the point briefly in my own post, is that people looking at this from the outside may have become so suspicious of obviously stupid and bigoted stories about Muslims in the tabloids, that they may react sceptically to stories about forced marriage too perhaps.

  14. Optimist — on 20th May, 2011 at 9:50 am  

    Galen H -

    Your ‘civilisation’ has given some wonderful things to rest of the world, like :
    - slavery where they took 22 million people out of
    Africa, packed into ships like sardines, and half of
    them perished miserably on the way
    - genocide of millions of natives in the Americas
    and Australias
    - looting and exploitation of half the world through
    colonialism where they left countries underdeveloped
    and squeezed out of their natural resources
    - two world wars with millions dead and extermination
    of six million Jews
    - continued exploitation of countries like Congo where
    nearly five million people are dead
    - continued illegal and immoral wars over counties
    like Afghanistan and Iraq
    - legacy of their ‘divide & rule’ policies with
    continued conflicts between India and Pakistan, Sri
    Lanka and Tamils, Israelis and Palestinians etc

    Even David Cameron recently had to admit that west is responsible for most of the worlds problems. And when Mahatma Gandhi was asked, “What do you think of the western civilisation?” – his answer was, “It would be a good thing.”!

  15. douglas clark — on 20th May, 2011 at 10:15 am  

    Optimist,

    What, exactly, has your list got to do with me? Frankly it mixes the good with the bad in some sort of curates egg about things that have happened in the past with current events that are at the very least debatable.

    Do you assume that modern day Britons would re-enact slavery if they had the chance? It was the British Navy that finally made an end to it, was it not?

    I think that your contribution here is deceitful nonsense.

  16. Kismet Hardy — on 20th May, 2011 at 10:48 am  

    west is bad, east is bad, man is bad

    Let’s just concentrate on standing in the way of bad forcing itself on innocents, yeah?

  17. Optimist — on 20th May, 2011 at 12:13 pm  

    douglas clark -

    What is wrong with you today? The best you can do is ‘deceitful nonsense’. I have looked at some of your previous contributions and have noticed that you normally enjoy dishing out personal abuse to almost everyone.

    But my list was in response to ‘civilised customs’ from Galen H. While she does not use too many words but her implication is quite clear that ‘forced marriages’, to which everyone on these pages objects, somehow invalidate all the good things in the Asian culture and thus makes it ‘uncivilised’ and inferior to her/your culture.

    Thus, like Cameron/Merkel/EDL/BNP, one may conclude, that multi-culturism is dead, or should be!

  18. douglas clark — on 20th May, 2011 at 3:01 pm  

    Optimist @ 17,

    I have looked at some of your previous contributions and have noticed that you normally enjoy dishing out personal abuse to almost everyone.

    Sure, you have. It is what is called selection bias.

    I have in parliamentary terms, agreed vociferously, disagreed vociferously, etc, etc. I do not ‘dish out’ stuff I don’t expect back. If you can prove me wrong – and my god I’ve been wrong often enough – then I’ll apologise for getting the wrong end of the stick.

    I consider most of the people who write here to be friends, not enemies. As far as I can tell they are a generally decent bunch of folk. The few I have met, two, exactly meet that definition.

    Some people come on here looking for a fight. It is, generally folk like that that I fall out with. Big style.

    I am not willing to be told that some random commentator knows best, just because they have suddenly discovered this web site. On the other hand, if a regular commentator says “Hey! This is an issue.” then I, for one, will give them the time of day. Because they will have already proven themselves to be worth reading, worth interacting with and y’know, worthwhile.

    It is kind of hard to take someone like you seriously when you say:

    Your ‘civilisation’ has given some wonderful things to rest of the world, like :
    - slavery where they took 22 million people out of
    Africa, packed into ships like sardines, and half of
    them perished miserably on the way.

    That, Optimist had nothing to do with me. It is not my ‘civilisation’. It is like accusing me of arguing in favour of a left turn Out of Africa rather than a right turn. I wasn’t there. I had no voice.

    How many died under the Arab whip on the way to their fate? The exploitation of Africans knows no bounds.

    Your entire argument is specious and insulting. Which I take it is the measure of you.

    Just saying.

  19. Galen H — on 21st May, 2011 at 3:36 pm  

    Optimist

    “But my list was in response to ‘civilised customs’ from Galen H. While she does not use too many words but her implication is quite clear that ‘forced marriages’, to which everyone on these pages objects, somehow invalidate all the good things in the Asian culture and thus makes it ‘uncivilised’ and inferior to her/your culture.”

    My implication was no such thing. You have simply and dishonestly ascribed a vast list of perverse values and opinions to me which were in no way implied in what I wrote. You started with careless reading and went straight into a wildly off-course and pointless display of kneejerk bigotry.

    I didn’t even refer to ‘civilised customs’ (plural), I referred to “the same laws and civilised custom of the rest of the population of not forcing people into marriage”.

    i.e. I was quite specificially referring to one custom (singular): that of not forcing people into marriage. And it IS a civilised custom, and no amount of ranting whataboutery about evil done by Britain over history changes that in any way, shape or form.

    There is no blanket criticism of any other culture involved in what I said. I am perfectly aware that there are lost of good things within Asian culture, and I wasn’t making even the slightest attack on that. Your accusations are simply absurdly unfair, and it’s not me they make look silly.

    If others choose to see forced marriage as some treasured cultural custom which can’t be dispenesed with or ruled inferior to a cultural custom of NOT forcing people into marriage, then that’s up to them, but I’ll have no hesitation in calling them evil bullying pigs for holding that view.

  20. Nadeem — on 21st May, 2011 at 6:55 pm  

    Optimist, post 14:

    Nice! Do you have that whole spiel saved down somewhere and just copy and paste it as and when required? I’m guessing you do…

    I particularly like how you have elevated David Cameron to the position of Judge of Civilisations!

  21. Rita Banerji — on 23rd May, 2011 at 4:12 pm  

    I agree totally it should be criminalized! In fact I can’t figure why they need a separate law for it — why can’t it just be treated like any case of kidnapping, coercion, and rape?

    @Rumbold mentions that many of these girls don’t want their parents prosecuted. And I’ve heard the same argument for the enforcement of the FGM law too in the U.K.

    But it’s the same with any other form of child sexual abuse (with both of these things are)! When children are sexually abused by a parent, there is tremendous guilt. They often don’t tell others because there is a separation anxiety as well, and a psychological conflict about loyalty. They also don’t want their parents to go to jail! In fact since society makes love and safety equal to the word parent, for these children, anything outside the home and family, they think might be even worse. But would the law in Britain not prosecute a parent who has sexually abused his/her child, if the child did not want the parent to be prosecuted?

  22. Rumbold — on 23rd May, 2011 at 9:28 pm  

    Rita:

    I agree that sometimes the state needs to prosecute people, even if, for whatever reason, the victim themselves does not want it. The problem with forced marriage (as with other things), is the evidence and the victim.

    Let’s say a fifteen year old British girl is forcibly married in Pakistan. She wants out, but doesn’t want her parents prosecuted. Under the current system, she could aler the Forced Marriage Unit, and they could rescue her (potentially). Under the proposed law, she is told she has to see her parents prosecuted. So she either puts up with the marriage, or goes ahead with the prosecution. Once she is safe, she could drop her statement, but, even if she doesn’t, it is very hard to prove (as who will back her up?).

    That is not to say I don’t support criminalisation- it would send a powerful message. I just worry how many girls (and boys) won’t come forward as a result.

  23. persephone — on 24th May, 2011 at 10:23 pm  

    Rumbold @6

    Basically what Rita said @ 21

    Agree – convict then under existing legislation – they are no different to other criminals so why treat them any differently. Otherwise we make them a special case – we are all equal before the law and all that

    persephone

  24. Optimist — on 25th May, 2011 at 2:29 pm  

    Galen H –

    If its true what you are saying now then there was no need for you to comment about my piece in the first place, except maybe to agree with it.

    Perhaps you did not read my comment as I had already said that we have to ‘try to remove this scourge from our culture.’ Also I was agreeing to have a new law by saying “we need such a law as a ‘stick’.”

    What I was also trying to say was that we have to handle this debate carefully in case we inadvertently give the racists/fascists/enemies of multiculturalism a chance to use it try to throw the baby with the bathwater. No doubt they would like to use such a debate to try to invalidate the whole Asian culture and thus I mentioned ‘forced assimilation’.

    As you know assimilation is ‘plural’ and you seemed to agree with that.
    “’Forced assimilation’ with the same laws and civilised custom “, your words.

    Although you had used the ‘singular’ custom – but I think you were just trying to have your ‘ladoo’ and eat it!!

    Otherwise, as I said, there was no need for you to say anything, unless you were going to acknowledge that I support a new law.

  25. Optimist — on 25th May, 2011 at 3:05 pm  

    douglas clark -

    You are right on one thing, I am new to this website which I discovered by chance. I also noticed in its mission statement, ‘We, as modern Asian Britons’.

    Now, I don’t mind you having gate-crashed our party before I arrived, but I did not think it was a closed club. I had thought that the admin would want as many people, with varying views, as possible to contribute.

    Now, as regard to the Arabs practicing slavery, sure, many different societies, including the ancient Greeks and Romans practiced it. There used to be white slaves as well as black slaves and there was no distinction based upon the colour of the skin. As an aside, there were also some black Roman emperors.

    However, there were two major differences between that slavery and the one practiced by the Europeans. Firstly they only took black slaves, and thus entrenching racism, secondly it was the sheer scale of it, an industrial scale.

    According to some estimates nearly 22 million people were taken out of Africa to feed the growing monster of capitalism.

    As regard to the role played by the British Navy, I think you ought to read the ‘Black Jacobins’ written by CLR James which tells the story how the slaves of Haiti, led by one of my heroes, Toussaint L’ouverture, freed themselves and set up an independent state after defeating the French, American and British navies in turn.

    Perhaps you don’t give a toss but I will tell you anyway that my other heroes are Spartacus and the great Saladin!!

  26. douglas clark — on 25th May, 2011 at 10:20 pm  

    Dear Optimist,

    Well, welcome to a forum that doesn’t discriminate. This forum is open to anyone. I suggest you check out the words Jai, BNP and douglas clark to get a vague idea where I really stand.

    In case you can’t find it, I will spell it out for you.

    Jai challenged the BNP directly before the last GE about their policies. He did it here and he managed to extract a reply. It was a very brave and sensible thing to do. The BNP put up their ‘head of legal’ to argue their case.

    As far as I am concerned, we won that argument. NB: we.

    I managed to get right up the nose of their ‘head of legal’ – apologies, I forget his stupid name – to the extent that he would have seen me as next for export.

    I have no truck with people like that. I have an enormous amount of time for the people that write and comment here on a regular basis. If you are willing to look at things in a bit more detail and not jump to conclusions, then maybe we can get along. It is up to you.

    ___________________________________

    On your other points, PP introduced me to Toussaint L’ouverture years ago and I am nearly as impressed with him as you are.

    This is a learning process for me as much as it is for anyone else that ‘logs in’. There are ‘hidden heroes’ in all of history. It is as well that we start to recognise them.

    My true political heroes are Nelson Mandela and Gandhi, and my football hero is a guy called Edison “Edson” Arantes do Nascimento.

    It ain’t all about the colour of your skin.

    OK, a joke too far:

    ‘I am Spartacus’.

  27. Optimist — on 26th May, 2011 at 9:20 am  

    Thanks douglas clark, I think we will get on fine.

    By the way, I have seen some of your comments about the BNP and I really appreciate that. Apoligies if we started on the wrong foot!

  28. douglas clark — on 26th May, 2011 at 10:21 am  

    Optimist,

    No worries.

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