NEWS: Women's groups demand action on forced marriages

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Jyothi Kanics---Global Survival Network (jkanics@igc.apc.org)
Wed, 22 Jul 1998 14:37:55 -0700 (PDT)


Women's groups demand action on forced marriages
The Independent (Britain), Tuesday July 21
By Steve Boggan

WOMEN'S GROUPS yesterday called on the Government to provide more money to
tackle the growing problem of forced marriages in the Asian community.

They want measures to prevent women being tricked or coerced into marrying
against their will. The Independent reported yesterday that forced
marriages were increasing as second-generation British Asians demanded the
right to choose their spouses.

Since the Government abolished the unpopular "primary- purpose" immigration
rule, where spouses could be excluded if officials believed the marriage
was one of convenience, the number of people gaining entry using their new,
British-born, wife or husband as sponsor is believed to have increased.
Some are thought to involve enforced marriages.

Women have been tricked by their families into travelling abroad for a
"holiday" or to visit a sick relative, but once they arrive, find a
marriage to a stranger has been arranged.

Some women are taken to remote villages - predominantly in Pakistan - never
to return to the UK; others return but have to bring into the country, and
support, their new spouse, who is not eligible for benefits.

Although arranged marriages, with the consent of both sides, are still the
norm in many sections of the community, forced marriages appear to be
increasing, resulting in many young women and men running away from home.

When they do, "bounty hunters" are employed to hunt them down and take them
back to their families and the prospect of a forced marriage abroad.
Women's groups like the Southall Black Sisters and the Keighley Women's
Domestic Violence Forum try to prevent women being coerced into marriages
at home and abroad.

They say a re-tightening of immigration laws is not the answer. Only more
help on the ground in Britain and in the countries to which women are taken
can help. "Women are not being forced into marriages in order to get visas
for their husbands," said Hannana Siddiqui of Southall Black Sisters.
"Forced marriages are simply used to control young women's freedoms and
sexuality.

"Reinstating the primary- purpose rule is not the answer. It is a much
wider problem which can only be solved by empowering women and providing
more money for women's groups like ours, for more refuges and advice on the
ground.

"Professionals like teachers and GPs should also be more active when they
suspect that women they come into contact with are being forced into a
marriage."

Shamshad Hussain, one of the Keighley Women's Domestic Violence Forum
workers, said: "We need advice and support services and we need training
for people on the front line like GPs, health visitors, and staff at
Citizens Advice Bureaux and Asian Women's Centres on what course of action
to take when someone tells them they are being forced into a marriage. We
also need elders in the community to take responsibility and publicly
condemn the practice of forced marriages and encourage communication
between parents and young people over the way forward."


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