Another bid to curb forced marriages
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Another bid to curb forced marriages

The Foreign Office and Home Office have roped in popular personalities to help convince the community against such alliances.

india Updated: Mar 18, 2006 20:08 IST
Vijay Dutt

The Foreign Office and Home Office, both desperately trying to curb forced marriages in Asian families for years, have now roped in popular stage and film stars to help convince the community that such alliances lead to unnecessary tragedies.

The Home Office has dealt with over 1,250 cases of forced marriages since 2000. This is said to be just tip of the iceberg as most cases go unreported.

An idea has been mooted to make forced marriage an offence and charge imams and clerics who carry out such marriages. But, there is some doubt how far making such marriages illegal will curb the practice, as it will require victims to give evidence against family members, who may then be jailed.

There are also fears that many in Asian families will feel alienated. A committee is considering the various pros and cons and the Government is expected to take a decision after its report.

Meanwhile, the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) under the joint sponsorship of the Home and Foreign Offices launched a more intensive publicity campaign, You Have a Right to Choose, to create awareness of issues surrounding forced marriages through TV fillers, posters and radio and press adverts at a big event in London on Thursday.

The Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland QC said, "Forced marriage affects children, teenagers and adults from all races and religions. Forced marriage is a form of domestic violence and human rights abuse."

She said the government was determined to help young people at risk and protect their right to choose whom they marry.

Popular film producer, writer and star of TV soap opera like Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No. 42, Meera Syal, OBE has also joined in the campaign. She pointed out the difference in arranged marriages -- which have a place in the society -- and a marriage without consent.

Many instances of forced marriages were related. It was clear that most were done with the aim to enable the spouse come and settle in Britain.

First Published: Mar 18, 2006 20:08 IST