Bill on forced marriages debated today


by Sunny
26th January, 2007 at 3:31 am    

FMIn November last year, Lord Lester and Southall Black Sisters teamed up to introduce introduce a Private Members Bill on forced marriages.

— “The object and purpose of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Bill is to provide protection for the victims of forced marriage by means of civil remedies in the family courts. It seeks to empower and protect vulnerable women and men against serious abuse, involving violence, threats of violence and other forms of improper coercion” — from here.

The Bill was introduced into the House of Lords on 16th Nov and will have its second reading today. That page linked above has summary notes on what the bill covers and what the current laws are like. SBS held a meeting earlier this month to invite comments by other groups, although I felt it was badly organised and badly publicised. They didn’t even respond to emails. A friend went and said some women groups were annoyed at not being informed well in advance. I’m sure they’ll get involved now, they still have time.

But there isn’t complete consensus amongst womens groups on whether a) a specific bill is needed or b) not, or c) whether provisions should be added to existing laws against domestic violence. There is also disagreement over whether it should be a civil protection bill (as it is now) or whether forced marriages should be criminalised (so parents who force kids into a marriage are treated as criminals, as the last consulation asked). Organisations such as Karma Nirvana (set up by Jasvinder Sanghera, who has just published her autobiography) pushed for criminalisation and wanted the last bill to go through, while SBS opposed it last time because they wanted a civil protection bill as it is now.

It’s a bit of a fudge. Parents won’t be treated as criminals if this bill gets passed in the hope that those affected aren’t afraid of seeking help. But they hope that since it is still a standalone bill, it will send out a signal that the police won’t tolerate forced marriages. In other words it is still a symbolic move against forced marriages. I think it’s a fudge because unless a whole family gets banged up in prison for trying to force their daughter into marriage, the rest of Asian society isn’t going to wake up. I laid out my reasoning earlier here.

This is an issue about violence against women – an attempt to control their lives and force them into doing other people’s biddings. I know it’s an obvious point to make, but the implication is that it should be treated as, and dealt with, as gender violence. The religion of victims is irrelevant and thus it annoys me to no end when politicians and journalists start asking the likes of the Hindu Council / MCB / Sikh Federation for their opinion. Exactly what experience do these people have in helping women suffering from domestic violence? I’m not sure why Michael White asks Sadiq Khan MP for his opinion in an article today – could he not have asked other womens groups? Unsurprisingly Khan is more worried about “ghettoising” and “stereotyping” than the lives of British Asian women.
My rant on comment is free about this.


              Post to del.icio.us


Filed in: Sex equality






45 Comments below   |  

Reactions: Twitter, blogs


  1. Rumbold — on 26th January, 2007 at 10:47 am  

    The danger with your proposal Sunny is that a criminal law could drive some parents to allow their daughters even less freedom, and cut them off from the outside world completely. They are less likely to react in that way if the punishments are civil.

  2. Kismet Hardy — on 26th January, 2007 at 11:00 am  

    Why don’t they start with the women forced to take shelter in refuges? There are plenty of cases of parents forcing violent, unwanted marriages onto these women. Give them better protection, lawyers and prosecute the parents and husbands in the dock.

    That’s a good starting point to send out the message to others who don’t think carting their daughter off to a life of misery isn’t a criminal offence

  3. sabinaahmed — on 26th January, 2007 at 11:52 am  

    it was quite depressing listening to the phone-in this morning, where asian men phoned-in denying the exsistence of such a thing as forced marriages/honour killings. One caller accused Anne Cryer MP of racism for raising this issue. I find this frightening that the young men in the community are in denial/are in favour of honour killings.I feel this bill will empower the young people who feel they have nowhere to go when their families and communities gang up on them. It is a sad fact that the un-conditional love a parent should have is not so un-conditional. Young people are disowned, hounded and have to live a life of misery if they dont accept the life their parents have chosen for them
    can anybody explain to me,(maybe the men on this board are not the right people to ask)why the young asian men are in favour of honour killings/ I feel unless we tackle such thinking at its source ,we wont be able to tackle this issue.

  4. Sahil — on 26th January, 2007 at 11:57 am  

    Totally agree with the above comments, this has never received the attention that is needed, plus a complete lack of funds. I would also say that if a woman is scared enough to head to one of the few shelters, she should be able to take this to court.

  5. sonia — on 26th January, 2007 at 12:05 pm  

    why should we assume the husbands weren’t equally coerced into marriage? sorry that kind of automatic assumption is unfair – it’s hardly as if a young man will necessarily have more say with overbearing parents than a girl – i’m not saying it isn’t generally worse for girls – but it doesn’t mean that if a girl is coerced into a situation the man she is forced to marry was involved in the coercing. often you find two young people are coerced into these situations by both sets of parents.

  6. Leon — on 26th January, 2007 at 12:10 pm  

    I feel this bill will empower the young people who feel they have nowhere to go when their families and communities gang up on them.

    Indeed and it would open up the whole taboo of just who Asian children can form relationships with. Long over due this…

  7. sonia — on 26th January, 2007 at 12:12 pm  

    Seems to me that there needs to be some clear legal analysis on this from some lawyers. Isn’t coercion already a crime or some sort or other? The question is really if someone wants to press charges – are the laws in place for them to act? i understand that people want to have a specific rule in the statute book – but again – some clarity is needed in the legal analysis. if people are implying that the reason they need a specific law is that there is no way otherwise someone can press charges – then they need to make that clear. Point is then people can actually make some clear and informed decisions on whether they should be supporting the creation of a specific offence and what the ramifications of not supporting it are. So far all we generally hear is hysteria and the automatic ‘if you’re not in support of it you must be a monster and not acknowledge the unpleasantness of the issue’ accusation. emotional arguments like that are counter-productive.

  8. Kismet Hardy — on 26th January, 2007 at 12:40 pm  

    “why should we assume the husbands weren’t equally coerced into marriage? sorry that kind of automatic assumption is unfair”

    Almost certainly men are coerced into unhappy marriages.

    But they tend to take out that unhappiness by beating their wives

    There aren’t refuges for abused men forced into marriages

    Men can divorce and move on. Not so easy for vulnerable abused Asian women

  9. sonia — on 26th January, 2007 at 1:13 pm  

    and women can’t divorce and move on? Right. anyway the point is not that at all – some men beat their wives – some don’t . you’re making gender assumptions Kismet – which was precisely the problem which leads to gender inequalities. just cos your assumptions in this case happen to be ‘oh the poor women’ and ‘against’ men doesn’t mean it’s okay. it’s equality that’s important – and if we’re going to go around making assumptions based on someone’s gender that sounds like gender discrimination to me.

  10. Kismet Hardy — on 26th January, 2007 at 1:19 pm  

    “and women can’t divorce and move on?”

    Have you been to a refuge lately? It’s not exactly what you’d call moving on

    And yup, it’s gender discrimination

    Abused women need help. Abused men need a pint

  11. sonia — on 26th January, 2007 at 1:23 pm  

    whatever kismet – im not easy to use that kind of emotional argument on – sorry!- frankly – i didn’t say abused women didn’t need help – and well you know it! but at least you admit to the fact its discrimination. but the point is really whether people want to look at root causes or want to sort out some help at the end. clearly both are necessary.

  12. Bert Preast — on 26th January, 2007 at 1:24 pm  

    Is arranged marriage the norm in the sub-continent? Is it often considered forced? How do the figures stack up compared with Asians in the UK?

  13. sonia — on 26th January, 2007 at 1:26 pm  

    of course if i wanted to highlight one of the root causes – i’d say it was some people assuming women are helpless and weak automatically( which is after all the logic of surely they can’t make up their minds on who they’re going to marry! they need US to tell ‘em..)

    so you see…

  14. Kismet Hardy — on 26th January, 2007 at 1:30 pm  

    Bert, arranged marriage is no different to speed dating, blind date, my mate fancies you…

    Forced marriage is when the girl is led kicking and screaming to the altar despite screaming no

  15. sonia — on 26th January, 2007 at 1:31 pm  

    who knows Pert Breasts. what i do know is that in my experience a surprisingly large no. of young people here are much happier with the idea of arranged marriages than when compared to young people with similar levels of education in the indian sub-continent. and i attribute the diasporic angle to that disparity – if you’ve been brought up here a lot of parents seem to think they’ve got to try harder to stuff tradition down your throat.

  16. Kismet Hardy — on 26th January, 2007 at 1:32 pm  

    Sonia, we’re not talking about a fluffy hippy world where men and women frolic shoulder to shoulder down the meadows of equality

    We’re talking about women in forced marriages that suffer abuse at the hands of men (and mother-in-laws, there’s a bit of gender equality for ya)

    And in this context, yes the women are weak. Yes the men are wankers

  17. sonia — on 26th January, 2007 at 1:33 pm  

    and frankly a lot of British Asian men seem to expect their wives to move in with their families afterwards – and are shocked if a woman indicates she wouldn’t approve. and in the indian sub-continent again – whilst the same expectations are there, the blokes aren’t half as suprised if a woman indicates she wouldn’t want that. they might still go and choose a ‘traditional’ woman but the point is ..they’re not as ‘oh my Gawd’ about it.

  18. sonia — on 26th January, 2007 at 1:33 pm  

    i dunno what you’re talking about kismet – i know what i was talking about.

  19. Kismet Hardy — on 26th January, 2007 at 1:42 pm  

    I get that from women a lot

  20. sonia — on 26th January, 2007 at 1:49 pm  

    ho ho there there you poor thing its alright some strong woman will take charge of you and then you won’t have to worry anymore ;-)

  21. Kismet Hardy — on 26th January, 2007 at 1:53 pm  

    She has. That’s why I know what it feels like to be an abused man. But nothing a hit on a crack pipe can’t take care of…

  22. Jagdeep — on 26th January, 2007 at 1:54 pm  

    We need full criminal legislation. That will focus minds.

  23. Leon — on 26th January, 2007 at 1:58 pm  

    Men can divorce and move on. Not so easy for vulnerable abused Asian women

    Indeed, in fact more broadly (not meaning to derail) it’s hard for most woman in abusive relationships to leave (especially if they have children and/or are financially dependent), the fear and low self esteem brought on by the abuse undermines them (not least if the man threatens more violence or death if they leave). If the whole family are against her then that pressure is a great deal worse.

    Have you been to a refuge lately? It’s not exactly what you’d call moving on

    Well said. At that point it’s about survival.

    Given the power dynamics between genders in the average relationship (in this context) I really have very little sympathy for the men.

  24. Jagdeep — on 26th January, 2007 at 2:10 pm  

    So if this bill goes through when can we expect to see the legislation in effect? For me I don’t know how much practical effect it will have, but it will be a symbolic drawing of the line and statement that may concentrate minds on practical side of things, raise profile and so on.

  25. Leon — on 26th January, 2007 at 2:18 pm  

    /So if this bill goes through when can we expect to see the legislation in effect?

    Just asked someone this: some laws can have immediate effect (such as terrorism laws). There’s no average time, it all depends on how long it takes to debate (at committee stage and two and throw between the Commons and the Lords).

  26. Jagdeep — on 26th January, 2007 at 3:04 pm  

    Would need alot of activist support for any civil case to be taken, most likely from a plaintiff who escaped and is older to seek retrospective damages.

  27. Galloise Blonde — on 26th January, 2007 at 3:54 pm  

    I was in the House of Lords this afternoon watching this debate (sitting next to Sharmi Chakrabati even). I’ll give you a round-up of what was said and by who once I’ve sorted out my children and read my notes — if you’re interested.

  28. Galloise Blonde — on 26th January, 2007 at 4:10 pm  

    Some quick points: Jagdeep, we may see this in effect by the end of the year apparently. Besides criminalising FM, this Bill also allows women, girls and men to get injunctions against their family members, and to claim compensation for having been forced into marriage. I was a bit doubtful about this at first, but it is also the case that a third party can represent the victim: so, if for example a girl is in a refuge and relatives are harassing her there, the refuge could get an injunction against them in her name, which seems like quite a helpful thing, particularly since there is a real prison sentence attached to breaking the injunction. It does provide some tools as well as making a much-needed and years overdue statement.

  29. Jagdeep — on 26th January, 2007 at 4:12 pm  

    Third party representatives is an excellent thing it would seem to me, as far as being a practical tool for helping people under direct pressure with the injunction and threat of prison. Good to have it on the statute books to draw a line. So how do you rate the chances of it being passed given that you must have talked to the activists down there? What’s the feeling?

  30. Leon — on 26th January, 2007 at 4:33 pm  

    Yep agreed about the 3rd party representation being a good thing (and agreed with Kismet above somewhere that this needs real resources to make this work).

    I’ll give you a round-up of what was said and by who once I’ve sorted out my children and read my notes — if you’re interested.

    Please do, alternatively (and I know you’re a busy as hell type and er Sunny hasn’t given me permission to ask!) maybe you could do a write up for a PP piece?

  31. Sunny — on 26th January, 2007 at 4:40 pm  

    I was just going to say the same as Leon. Probably be best as a new article GB.

    On Third party, it’s tricky. A close colleague said this was controversial because there was a worry that people not directly could report the authorities without the girl’s consent.

  32. Galloise Blonde — on 26th January, 2007 at 4:47 pm  

    I didn’t get a chance to talk to anyone, not even Jasvinder! There was a huge consensus on the Bill and just about every peer in the House wanted to stand up to congratulate Lord Lester and offer moral support and commentary so that even with the 6 minute limitation on speeches it was getting really late and get back for the school run. I have to write something for the Boss anyway, so I certainly don’t mind you giving a look at it Leon, and you can see if you’re interested.

  33. Leon — on 26th January, 2007 at 4:53 pm  

    A close colleague said this was controversial because there was a worry that people not directly could report the authorities without the girl’s consent.

    Interesting, I wonder how this works with domestic violence law in general where the police can arrest/charge without needing the victims consent etc?

  34. Galloise Blonde — on 26th January, 2007 at 4:54 pm  

    Sunny – Hopefully not, because the third party has to be accepted by the judge, who shouldn’t accept it without being convinced it the action was being carried out with the victim’s agreement and with her consent, which should weed out hypothetical trouble-making ex-boyfriends.

  35. Jagdeep — on 26th January, 2007 at 5:03 pm  

    Hmmmm….I’m not sure trouble-making ex-boyfriends would be the issue. But good to hear that it has the checks and balances regarding the judge having to oversee applications. By the time it reaches that stage most likely either trusted agencies, social services or police will have been involved, or will become involved to ensure it is employed with guardianship on behalf of the person involved. Should be good back up for the armoury of shelters and refuges.

  36. sabinaahmed — on 26th January, 2007 at 5:08 pm  

    Vow Shami Chakar, she is my Hero,you lucky person to have met her.
    I had a long chat with Jasvinder,she says on an average there are 7-8 women a week who come to her refuge,having been abused by families.She is of the opinion that men and woman are brought up very differently in Asian culture.She gives an example of hher brother who was going out with a European woman,and though her parents didnt approve of it, but they turned a blind eye. Whereas if a girl has relationshaip with a man whom the parents dissaprove,then it is a matter of honour and the girl can be killed for it.

  37. Galloise Blonde — on 26th January, 2007 at 5:24 pm  

    Not just Asian. Fadime Sahindal (a Turkish Kurd) was murdered five years ago this week in Upsala for having had a Swedish boyfriend. Her brother had also had a Swedish girlfriend — in fact they had lived together in the family home. In court, this same brother said she deserved to die because she was a ‘whore who disgraced the family’.

  38. William — on 26th January, 2007 at 7:26 pm  

    There need to be laws against coercion towards marriage but also against coercion to stay in a marriage that goes wrong even if initially it was consensual. Also there should be refuges for anyone who needs them.

    Is it possible as well that these things can be questioned at a cultural/psychological level. Does it stem from situations where networks of relatives are part of ones economic security so to speak. That is, such things were deemed as part of ones survival but really they don’t count as such when reality checked. For people to feel so strongly if boundaries are broken there must be some fear that strong moral/survival codes are broken. Where do the insecurities come from, do they match up to reality etc. Is it possible for the underlying values unconscious or otherwise to be looked at deeply and unpacked.

  39. Chris Stiles — on 26th January, 2007 at 7:55 pm  

    The problem – as with all family law – is to trying to draw up something that isn’t then used in feuds between relatives.

    Personally, I don’t see why the existing laws on coercion couldn’t be rigourously applied here – perhaps backed with a strong public information campaign. I agree with Kismet – starting with the women already in refuges would send out a strong message. Followed by a campaign against coercion in marriage – of both sexes.

  40. Gibs — on 26th January, 2007 at 9:46 pm  

    “The religion of victims is irrelevant and thus it annoys me to no end when politicians and journalists start asking the likes of the Hindu Council / MCB / Sikh Federation for their opinion.!

    Well said ! These religious groups’ howls of protestation should be disregarded. They are (at best) in denial about the scale of the problem, and (at worst) apologists for it.

  41. Galloise Blonde — on 26th January, 2007 at 9:56 pm  

    Hey! I just read that Michael White link: he says Baroness Uddin was expected to speak against the measure; but she was very much in favour! She was just making practical suggestions to make sure it was more effective! Lord Lester thanked her for her support and input into the Bill! How he can title it ‘Division in Westminster?’; because of this Sadiq Khan guy? I dunno, that article is just bizarre.

  42. Gibs — on 26th January, 2007 at 10:08 pm  

    Here’s an honest question – has Keith Vaz ever tabled an early day motion in the House Of Commons denouncing forced marriages ?

    I couldn’t help but notice his concern for the abuse suffered by (the very rich and forign national) Shilpa Shetty in the BB House.

    Has he shown the same amount of concern for the abuse suffered by the numerous poor BRITISH women facing forced marriages ?

    Perhaps someone could enlighten me on his voting record in this area ?

  43. Don — on 26th January, 2007 at 11:15 pm  

    ‘Perhaps someone could enlighten me on his voting record in this area ?’

    Ever heard of research?

  44. Desmond — on 27th January, 2007 at 1:40 am  

    Forced marrages = Inbreds + Genetic disorders

  45. Leon — on 16th February, 2007 at 12:50 am  

    Interview with Jasvinder Sanghera here.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Pickled Politics © Copyright 2005 - 2010. All rights reserved. Terms and conditions.
With the help of PHP and Wordpress.