Saturday, January 9, 2010

Special protection orders save nine-year-olds from forced marriages

From Times Online January 8, 2010

Special protection orders save nine-year-olds from forced marriages
Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

Almost half those saved were children
Children as young as nine have been rescued from forced marriages under new special protection orders, The Times can disclose.

The nine-year-olds were among 86 females granted the civil safeguards in the 12 months since the forced marriage protection orders were introduced. Nearly half of the applicants, 39, were children with some as young as nine, the Ministry of Justice confirmed.

Although the overall number of 86 victims seems low, it is twice the number the Government had expected to seek help in the first year of the orders coming into effect.

Hundreds of girls and young women in the UK are forced into marriage each year, according to the report published by the Ministry of Justice into the first year of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act of 2007.

Related Links
It is not part of anyone’s culture to be abused
Teachers told how to spot forced marriages
‘Holiday’ was a wedding trip
The report says the women and girls come under physical, psychological, sexual, financial and emotional pressure.

“A woman who is forced into marriage is likely to be raped and may be raped repeatedly until she becomes pregnant,” the report says.

The children subjected to the orders have become child protection cases, the Ministry of Justice told The Times, and their families are also being worked with to help resolve the problem.

The orders allow police and councils to confiscate the passports of potential victims. Relatives can be forced to tell the authorities where women and children have been taken if they are no longer in Britain.

In 2008 alone, the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit dealt with more than 1,600 reports of possible forced marriage and 420 of these became cases. “Some victims are taken overseas to marry while others may be married in the UK,” the report says.

But the report notes that some authorities and schools are reluctant to publicise the new orders because of “the presence of a PC agenda whereby there was reluctance to risk causing offence”.

The report also notes that women can be putting themselves at serious risk when applying for a protection order. One judge is quoted as saying: “These girls are in a cleft stick ... they may be in danger ... but if they leave home they lose everything.”

Another judge in a court which had made two orders, neither local cases, said: “I would be gobsmacked if there wasn’t a greater need for these orders ... the social problem has not gone away.”

Home Office "honour-based violence" roadshows have rasied awareness of the issues around forced marriage. But the report says: “There was concern locally about stigmatising the minority communities, and people were afraid to use the court, despite active police involvement.” Victims were also thought to be afraid to give evidence against relatives.

Police also accused social services of being slow to act. The report says: “There were references to calls not always being returned, or cases being regarded as naughty children."

Last year Bridget Prentice, the Justice Minister, said women placed under the protection of the orders were “unlikely to see their family ever again”. Speaking at a conference in Leicester on forced marriage and “honour” violence, Ms Prentice said that the Justice Ministry expected about fifty women to seek help but police and care workers believe that many more than came forward could benefit from protection.

Ms Prentice said: “There is no doubt in my mind that we have provided a remedy to respond to a genuine need. The protection orders have demonstrated that there is a need for action, but also a need for caution and understanding of their impact on a young person who might then lose their family and community, and will need long-term protection and support.”

Fareed Chedie, spokesman for the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal, set up in 2007 to provide a viable alternative for the Muslim community seeking to resolve disputes in accordance with Sharia, said his research had disclosed that the problem was much greater than many realised. The tribunal estimates that as many as seven in ten of all marriages involving UK citizens with a foreign element involve coercion.

No comments: