Forced marriages on the rise in Britain

Published on Apr 14, 2004 02:10 PM IST

At least 300 forced marriages, many of the victims under 16, are thought to be performed every year in UK under the guise of "community marriages".

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PTI | ByVijay Dutt, London

At least 300 forced marriages, many of the victims under 16, are thought to be performed every year in Britain despite massive efforts by the British Government to help women, in particular, from being compelled to marry against their wish.

Most officers entrusted to stop such unions have been hesitating out of the fear of being branded racist. Now, the concern over the issue has deepened because refusal by some young women has led to what is being called honour killings.

Over six cases were reported in London alone in 2003. The authorities had succeeded to a large extent in stopping parents taking their daughters from here to their countries of origin to be married off. Special cells were created here in embassies and high commissions where women could report their plight.

However, recent investigations have discovered that a growing number are being married here in Britain. These are being called "Community marriages". Ann Cryer, MP, for Keighley, led a campaign to stop such marriages, despite dominance of Pak-origin voters in her constituency. 

The over 100,000 solicitors in the UK are now being given new guidelines to help them save women form being forced into unwilling marriages. The Law Society's move follows concern that lawyers too do not intervene because they fear being branded racist.

Solicitors have been told that forced marriage involves " an array of harms, crimes and abuses". These include termination of education, emotional and physical abuse, theft of passport and restrictions in movement. Many Asian community leaders had also accused the Government of not understanding the practise of arranged marriage. Now the new guideline explains the difference between the traditional method of arranged marriage and forced marriage.

Solicitors have been reminded that forced marriage is not an issue confined to any particular culture or faith.

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