Forced marriages are a problem in this country. Various women`s groups have been campaigning for some time to have the law changed. A bill was propsed last year in the parliment,and from the end of this year, forced marriages will be a crime.
Now the ministers are preparing a bill, which will allow third parties like, teachers, doctors, and social workers. They will be able to apply for a court order for a forced marriage court order. And if that order is broken, it can result in a jail sentence.
The Muslim Council of Britain, have welcomed the move.
They say that this is not a religious matter but a cultural one.
Arranged marriages have been practiced in the East, and many religious groups including orthodox Jews.
It is natural for parents to want to see their children settled in life, with a suitable partner. But how it is done is the problem .The governments forced marriages unit receives about 5, 000 calls a year for advice. Out of these 300 become cases. Latest figures published by the Home Office show that 15 per cent of the 300 are men and 30 per cent are minors.
The intervention by the third parties will not need permission from the victim, before they can apply for a court order. This is being seen as a nanny state telling people what to do.
I once reviewed a book by a victim of a forced marriage. And I spoke to the author at length about her experience. There is no doubt that her parents ruined her life. Who never accepted her desire to have a normal teenage and go to college was, something she was entitled to. She now runs a refuge in Derby, where she claims every day at least 4-5 women turn up for help.
I feel very angry that though the immigrant community has been in this country for last fifty to sixty years, and they have still not seen it fit to allow their children freedom. Because they are born in a different culture, they inhabit a secular and free country. Why are they expected to follow the rules of a far away tradition?
May be someone will give me a rational explanation. I feel in this case the government is right to intervene and give powers to a third party.
Am embarrassed though, that after all these years we have not made a civilised transition to the culture we came to live in. And the only place our children have known as home.