|Subject: British Asians divided over 'forced marriages'
Next Thread |
Previous Thread |
Next Message |
Date Posted: Friday, December 17, 13:48:12
Culture factor: British Asians divided over 'forced marriages'
Sucharita Ghosh - Sunday, December 12, 2004
Young British Asian women have made a mark in their society.
But their upward mobility in the world masks a grim reality at home.
For many of them, forced marriages are part of their future and for some it's a future too painful to face.
Figures released this week by the British police reveal:
* Twenty per cent increase in forced marriages cases dealt by British High Commission in Islamabad.
* Suicide figures for British South Asian woman -- between 16 and 24 -- are three times higher than the national average.
* Every year, at least 1000 young British Asian women are abducted from the UK by their families and forced into marriage -abroad.
The British police believe that the high suicide rate is linked to the fear of honour crimes for having relationships outside the community. Among the 100 cases of forced marriage this year, while the majority involved women, 20 instances were of young men.
To tackle this culturally sensitive issue, the British Foreign and Home Office have joined forces to set up a special Forced Marriage Unit this month. They are also implementing a set of new laws to address it.
"We are now training officers to identify it, be aware of it and assist people. One of the huge problems we came across was that when they did have the courage to ask for help, the professionals didn't know what to do," said Baroness Scotland, Criminal Justice System and Law Reform Minister.
"Many people are frightened by the 'culture' label. They believe that it is culturally acceptable to beat children or make them forcefully. But we have made it clear, all British citizens - no matter where they hail from - are entitled to have their human rights upheld, irrespective of ethnicity, irrespective of the so called culture," added Scotland.
"We haven't got a specific forced marriage offence and the reason for that is it's already unlawful to force someone to marry. Think of the offences you may commit - if you kidnap or abduct somebody, forcibly imprison them. These are already punishable crime. For kidnapping you could get a life sentence imprisonment," he held.
Judging by the initial responses from British Asian communities to the governments initiatives - implementation could be anything but easy. Manzoor Hussain, who runs community classes for young children - and has married outside his community himself, is amongst the many who believe that it is a community issue,
He claims that state interference is not the best option. "Even though I led a Western style of life in my youth, certain aspects I are not conducive in the growth of communities. So I brought up my children differently," said Hussain, also a spokesperson, Muslim council, Berkshire.
"My wife was a helper and voluntarily took up Islam. We instilled Muslim ideals in our children and my daughter actually asked me to arrange a husband for her. I don't know if criminalizing the parents is the ideal scenario because at the end of the day the child will have to go back and make peace with her family. Criminalizing the family may make the situation irresolvable," he held.
"I don't think it should be talked about in schools because a lot of them will not have the understanding of where the parents or children come from. It is a discussion which the families should have, they need to assess what is Islamic in terms of upbringing," held Hussain.
Need for support
But others like The Southall Black Sisters, strongly disagree. They are a group that has provided a range of services for women and children experiencing violence and abuse for over 25 years.
And they welcome government backing to an issue whose victims have swelled behind closed doors, but go largely unreported.
"It has always been a problem where people claim such problems can only be resolved by the family and the community. This has often worked against the interests of women because the status quo is really about community leaders, who don't want to change the situation and empower women. As a result, it's really important that the state does more to help women, who escape abusive relationships within the Asian communities," said Hannana Siddiqui, sociala, Southall Black Sisters.
"We've had cases where women are taken abroad on the pretext of visiting sick relatives or they think they are going on holiday. They are then imprisoned, have their documents taken away from them and are then forced into marriage," added Siddiqui.
"It's a very difficult decision to go against your parents. A lot of the women fear social isolation from not just their own family, but often the whole community. So it's very imp that there are enough support structures and resources out there," she held.
Attitudes will not change overnight and whether the government or family intervention is the right way forward remains to be seen. However, what is certain is that the British government's plans to make forced marriage a criminal offence has forced the issue out of the shadows and opened it up for debate.
Next Thread |
Previous Thread |
Next Message |