Thursday, August 16, 2007

Enforcing the unenforceabilty of forced marriages

There are distinct attitudes expressed toward women by many Asian men which have little to do with equality or respect. They have certain cultural norms which are, shall we say, at variance with the traditions and customs of the United Kingdom. One of these is ‘forced marriage’, in which girls as young as 13 are forcibly carted off by their parents, grandparents, uncles and brothers to Pakistan, Bangladesh or India, where they meet their intended husband for the first time. They marry, return to the UK where his immigration status is regularised by virtue of the union, produce children, and the process is repeated generation after generation. Many forced marriages within the Pakistani Muslim community are aimed at providing British citizenship to a distant member of the family presently living in Pakistan, and the marriage is perceived to be a matter of duty and honour.

It is estimated that around 1000 British teenage girls endure forced marriages every year. A quarter of these manage to contact the Forced Marriages Unit of the FCO, but the other 750 are effectively kidnapped and coerced, and their plight largely forgotten by society. There is one brave charity which deals with the most common consequence of forced marriages - domestic violence, rape, and sexual abuse, - but the Southall Black Sisters are despised by many in the Asian community for their interference in private family matters, and for betraying their cultural heritage. There are other brave souls, but they operate on the outer fringes of their communities.

The Conservative Party has decided to tackle this issue head-on, irrespective of the offence it might cause to many Asians, and indeed the damage that accusations of ‘racism’ might do to David Cameron’s Conservatives as they seek to impose a notion of ‘Britishness’. The intention is to make forced marriages ultimately unenforceable.

Good. Multicultural sensitivity is no excuse for moral blindness.

Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green is going to insist that anyone planning to marry outside the UK will have to register their intentions, and disclose the name of their fiancé before leaving the country. The reasoning is that this would prevent girls being taken abroad ‘for a holiday’, only to find themselves being forcibly married off. They are too scared to object, and many are genuinely terrified of the very real possibility of being killed for bringing ‘dishonour’ upon the family.

Mr Green said: ‘It is the extreme and unacceptable end of the clash of values between a plural democracy that values individual human rights and belief systems that regard women as second-class.' His view is that the girls would be protected because ‘if they are not persuaded of the merits of their potential husband they can delay knowing that time is on their side’.

Hmmm…

Cranmer believes this to be hopelessly naïve. While the intentions are honourable, and the pursuit of justice admirable, Mr Green has absolutely no idea of the intolerable pressures many of these young teenage girls endure. And neither does he grasp the Asian view of the family nor understand that many will find a hundred ways around these flimsy proposals.

The vast majority of teenage Asian girls and boys (for they are just as susceptible, and often the forgotten victims of this practice) are persuaded from a very early age of the virtues of ‘religious duty’ and ‘family honour’. These override all else. No Asian girl or boy goes abroad for ‘a holiday’ without there being months of family polite chit-chat of how ‘it might be time to think about marriage’. Asian teenagers are no more stupid than their Caucasion peers: they will know that a ‘holiday’ to Pakistan is likely to involve a wedding, and they are likely to have confided this to their closest school friends.

If the law is changed to force the disclosure of a name with a simple statement of intent, this will cause these Asian families very little difficulty. A name does not reveal ‘the merits of their potential husband’, and there is nothing in these proposals to make a period of ‘engagement’ in any sense obligatory. The teenage victims will still be just as scared and just as terrified of the consequences of bringing dishonour upon their families. They will, therefore, obey their elders. And if they do not obey, they will be 'assisted' to do so.

Mr Green makes clear that the Conservative Party has no problem with arranged marriages, and he insists these are distinct from those which are forced because of the consent that is given by both contracting parties. While this may be so for very many Asian teenagers, ‘arranged marriages’ for many more are just as forced, so much so that ‘arranged’ is but a euphemism for ‘forced’. When is this consent forcibly extracted? What pressure is there to consent? How do teenage girls resist the bullying of their fathers, brothers and uncles? And how does one define ‘forced’? One person’s ‘encouragement’, or ‘assistance’, may quite easily be perceived by someone else as force, coercion or obligation.

Perhaps the inadequacy of the proposals is better understood when it is considered that one of the Conservative Party’s principal advisers on the policy is the new shadow cabinet minister for Community Affairs, Sayeeda Warsi.

Baroness Warsi herself was 'obliged' to have an ‘arranged’ marriage, to which, no doubt, she gave her unqualified consent.

8 Comments:

Anonymous TomTom said...

Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green is going to insist that anyone planning to marry outside the UK will have to register their intentions, and disclose the name of their fiancé before leaving the country.

The change is simple.

Certain countries require a foreign national to produce a Certificate of Competency to Marry before they are permitted to apply.

British Citizens must apply at their local Register Office where the marriage application is displayed for 14 days inviting objections.

The Certificate must then be sent to the Foreign Office and apostilled and then to the Embassy of the country concerned for verification.

If the British Government made it a requirement that any British Subject marrying abroad MUST have this Certificate for the marriage to be recognised by the UK Visa Authorities the matter is resolved.

It takes very little change in current law and can be circulated to all Commonwealth High Commissions in London.

16 August 2007 at 10:44  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

Something you've overlooked: the vile practice of consanguineous marriages among the vibrant Pakistani Muslim community, which causes very serious medical problems and vast expense for the NHS. Note the PC weaselling here:

"Infant mortality and childhood morbidity rates are higher among British Pakistanis than other ethnic groups. The various reasons for this include consanguineous marriage, which increases the risk of recessive genetic disorders. But adverse birth outcomes among British Pakistanis are not always the result of consanguineous marriage, and marrying relatives does not always result in the birth of children with recessive disorders.
Genetic risk Infant mortality and childhood morbidity rates are higher among British Pakistanis than other ethnic groups. The various reasons for this include consanguineous marriage, which increases the risk of recessive genetic disorders. But adverse birth outcomes among British Pakistanis are not always the result of consanguineous marriage, and marrying relatives does not always result in the birth of children with recessive disorders."

http://genome.wellcome.ac.uk/doc_WTD020975.html

16 August 2007 at 15:48  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

Your Grace
As usual, you have been clever and exposed a political high jump to be just that. So why not make this your conclusion? Damian Green's plans are no more naive than Sayeeda Warsi's likely proposals.

As you have said, the Asian vote is important. This political move allows the Conservatives to be seen to be pursuing what is morally right, while ensuring the Asian community is not enraged.

16 August 2007 at 16:49  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Something you've overlooked: the vile practice of consanguineous marriages among the vibrant Pakistani Muslim community, which causes very serious medical problems and vast expense for the NHS.

Mr Nedsherry,

His Grace has not overlooked the consequences of consanguinous unions. He covered the issue here. As a relatively new communicant, His Grace ought to inform you that he is not inclined to perpetually repeat the same point, not least because his other communicants may find him rather tedious were he to do so.

Ms Snuffleupagus,

His Grace most regrets that you were disenfranchised from Mr Dale's electoral process, and your ballot paper spoilt.

You may have a right of appeal, not least because your vote was indeed cast in good faith well before the deadline, and his 'ridiculous rule' was not disclosed before you did so. Disenfranchisement on the basis of retroactive legislation would seem to His Grace to be a breach of your human rights.

This may evoke in Mr Dale a sense of guilt...

16 August 2007 at 17:17  
Blogger Cranmer said...

For some reason His Grace's link did not function. Here is the relevant page:

http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.com/2007/01/demands-for-muslim-health-service.html

16 August 2007 at 17:18  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

O me of little faith! I apologize to His Grace, but am glad to have prompted the link.

16 August 2007 at 18:06  
Anonymous TomTom said...

http://www.sawnet.org/health/

http://www.borninbradford.nhs.uk/

Ex-cricketer and Born in Bradford patron Imran Khan met staff and parents
on a visit to the maternity and neonatal units at Bradford Royal Infirmary on December 7 2006. Imran also met the Born in Bradford team and was
updated on the project's progress. Imran helped sign up some parents
onto the study, and was very enthusiastic about the project.

16 August 2007 at 18:55  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

Your Grace
I see my comment on Iain Dale has appeared. But I have now emailed him as well, to ensure that he takes notice of me.

I would have thought that if only one blog were mentioned that this should mean extra points, not being penalised. I do wish you luck.

But whatever Mr Dale concludes, your power, as it is for any leader, will always lie with your people.

16 August 2007 at 23:09  

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