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Comments

Louise

Completely agree. Banning forced marriages is not an attack on the Muslim community, it is protecting young women from an appalling crime.

It would be useful if a woman who had taken part in a happy arranged marriage could be presented as a supporter of this policy, emphasising the difference between arranged and forced marriages.

Graeme Archer

Louise has followed up a blinding performance on Any Questions with a reasonable and necessary policy proposal. Such a proposal is at the heart of the "one nation, many cultures" Toryism that we need to be a 21st century campaigning organisation (I guess I just mean "multiple belief systems are great but we do require to have equality under the law"). She is correct to point out the abject (I would say "craven") failure of New Labour on this matter; which (as with so much of New Labour politics in the multicommunity arena) is tantamount to saying "So sorry that some British citizens are being abused; unfortunately their votes don't amount to enough for us to take action".

Slightly OT but I hope very much that Louise makes it to Westminster. I like very much her level-headed and coherent political skills. I do think narrative matters, so I suppose it's not surprising that a skilled novelist should be so good at it!

Annabel Herriott

Thank God for Louise Bagshawe. There are retired nurses on CH who have been emailing each other after the last honour murder to wonder what we could do.
Louise has done it for us, and for all vunerable women. All CH should vote for a ban on forced marraige.
The DC MUST take it up.

Patsy Sergeant

'How could we make it absolutely clear that the ban was not aimed at any community'

Research would have to be done to try to find evidence that there has been coercion or force of some kind in other communities in this country.

I think that the first question - 'How could we best emphasize that we are prepared to defend young women's freedom of choice', should be addressed or perhaps I should say should HAVE been addressed in the past, when the non-english speaking parents arrived in this country! Nobody made any effort to ensure that the parents learned to speak the language of this country, hence quite a number of that age group STILL do not speak English. This can lead to suspicion and a feeling of insecurity in the parents, and perhaps a need to cling even harder to older traditions of the village where they came from! EVRYBODY WHO LIVES IN BRTIAN SHOULD SPEAK ENGLISH, please note I do NOT say English ONLY.

Andy Peterkin

Forced marriage is an appalling practice whatever the religion of those procuring it.

However, I think we need to be careful that we are not over-legislating in this area. Marriages effected with one of the parties under duress can be and are declared void by the courts, whilst there is an argument that the duress element itself falls into the existing criminal offences of, amongst others, assault and harrassment.

I want to see this practice stopped, but we need to consider whether a new criminal offence is appropriate, or whether the desired effect can be achieved through a reinterpretation of those we currently have. Labour's legislative incontinence must be avoided at all costs.

Angelo Basu

Rather than worrying too much about whether the ban would offend any particular community or be perceived as targeting them, wouldn't it be better to take the positive line that any community which approves of or can turn a blind eye to forced marriages is not compatible with the rights and freedoms which are part of the British cultural heritage? The line taken by the Courts in sentencing "honour" killers strikes me as taking this stance in a non-inflammatory way and suggests that it is not necessary to tread too gingerly in support of a measure which is clearly right and should be supported by any thinking person.

Slavery is not part of our culture and neither should forced marriage.

However, I query whether this would in practice be a cost-less offence to introduce. The evidential standards should be no different than the normal criminal standard (proof beyond reasonable doubt) and this will mean that as with many domestic violence/sex offences there will be difficulties in getting suitable evidence due to the complex personal relationships involved and fear in witnesses and victims. If there is no suitable system for protecting the victims during the investigation and into the future the proposed law would be merely a publicity-generating measure which would in fact have limited effectiveness in stamping out this barbaric practice.

Richard Coates

The main problem with this policy is determining what is a forced marriage in the first place. There is a range of behaviour that could be seen as coercive from outright kidnapping, violence and death threats at one end of the spectrum to cultural and family pressure at the other. Where on that spectrum does the criminality occur in the proposed offence? Clearly the more serious end of the spectrum is already heavily criminalised and it seems very difficult to make an argument for the state to intervene at the bottom end of the spectrum.

Clearly the issue of British women being duped into going abroad and forced into marriage is a serious one – but Ms Bagshaw needs to make an argument for why we need a new criminal offence here - and not better enforcement of current criminal law. If the legal issue is one of jurisdiction this could be addressed with amendments to existing legislation without the need for a new offence.

Ultimately, however, the issues to be resolved to address this issue are not legal, but evidentiary and political. The crimes often take place in foreign countries where law enforcement may turn a blind eye and British courts do not reach. This will only be resolved through making the issue an important one in terms of our foreign policy and by giving British embassies the resources to investigate individual cases.

Michael Ehioze-Ediae

I oppose forced marriages.

However, my main concern is how a ban will be enforced.The only way this could happen is if the victim alerts the authorities.

My understanding of the issue is that the threat is made within the family and the victim will be too scared to report because she will not want to 'disgrace' her family or be ostracised from her 'community'.

Therefore, I think we should seriously consider the effectiveness of this proposed law.

Gildas

Richard Coates - "This will only be resolved through making the issue an important one in terms of our foreign policy and by giving British embassies the resources to investigate individual cases."

It already is - the British consulates across Pakistan often carry out rescues of British nationals who have been forced into marriages there. But we need to devote more resources to stopping it at home, before the victims get spirited abroad.

Patsy Sergeant - "EVRYBODY WHO LIVES IN BRTIAN SHOULD SPEAK ENGLISH"

And people wonder why we're viewed as an English party in Wales. I know that how that comment would be read from that perspective was not what you were thinking about when you wrote it, but hey, thats the point isn't it.

Sam Oakley

How is forced marriage not illegal?

kidnap, rape, harrassment, intimidation. These are already crimes. Louise has expressed an admirable sentiment but surely what we really need is a propper outreach programme to these people who are already victims of a number of crimes instead of some catch-all offense?

TomTom

Red herring.

Ann Cryer is against Forced Marriage and has campaigned against it. Home Office under Beary Hazel and Proerty Developer McTaggart refused to consider it for fear of upsetting Muslim Votes.

Now why doesn't Louise Bagshawe find some other echo ? This is pathetic. If Cameron made it a manifesto pledge he would break it in office. The political class is afraid of the Muslim constituency and is not prepared to take it on. In the case of Labour it is Muslim votes, with the Tories it is Saudi money.

Let us recall Jonathan Aitken and Wafic Said, and how Prince Charles persuaded the King of Saud to fund the Finsbury Park Mosque, and that Prince Charles has never visited Israel on his travels to the Middle East

Cllr. Robert-j Tasker

Excellent choice for a policy...

would thoroughly agree.....!

Kevin Davis

I don't think we should worry too much about upsetting a particular community. I something is wrong, it is wrong.

I have a worry though. Should we be creating more laws when one of the chief problems we have in this country is too much law? In other words, is there not already an existing law that could be enforced in these instances?

Annabel Herriott

Isnt it AMAZING that the male posters here, who will never ever be subject to this form of subjugation, are being picky and legalistic. Go and research the killings! Go and research the suicides! Go and research the domestic violence.
As it happens, the regimes to combat domestic violence have come further than these male posters realise. Perpetrators are arrested, hauled before a court, often imprisoned overnight if drunk, without any say so of the victim. Most Police forces have a domestic violence unit, my town has one of the first, and I believe it is still the best.
This is one area of a vunerable womans existence, which will be put in further danger by these legalistic political anoracs that have just posted on this subject. I really did not believe what I was reading. We need to summon up all our CAN DO facilities, not find ways of blocking it.How many more full page accounts of bright asian girls being murdered by their fathers/brothers/uncles/ do you want to read before some common sense descends???? I have to say, I am not holding my breath.

legal eagle

Emphasising the policy is a good idea however, this issue is largely covered by existing legislation. Section 12 of the Martimonial Causes Act 1973 sets out the grounds on which a marriage is voidable. Sub-paragrpah (c) includes: "that either party to the marriage did not validly consent to it, whether in consequence of duress, mistake, unsoundness of mind or otherwise".

The courts have generally been sensible in their approach to their interpretation of 'duress' here including, for example, severe emotional pressure, fear of ostracism from a community etc.

It may mean that some 'tinkering' of this provision is what is needed, perhaps lowering the level of influence that can make a marriage voidable to include undue influence as well?

ChaunceyGardener

Patsy Sergeant at 10.04 said

"EVRYBODY WHO LIVES IN BRTIAN SHOULD SPEAK ENGLISH, please note I do NOT say English ONLY."

Does Patsy also believe that all British ex-pats (many of them Tory voters) who have retired to Spain should be forced to speak Spanish?

ChaunceyGardener

Excellent article Louise and should be implemented. Though for the reasons TomTom has cited there are some big political interests/lobbies that will need to be challenged by whichever party does it.

The issue of consenting arranged marriages though is something that will also need to be addressed if a loophole is not to be created that will allow the practice to continue covertly.

Sean Fear


What would largely bring the practice to an end IMO, is if we followed the Danish example, and said that spouses would not be allowed to reside in this country if both parties were not aged over 24 at the time of wedding.

There would thus be no incentive for teenage brides to be forced to wed men from the Indian sub-continent, so that they could get residence in this country.

TomTom

http://tinyurl.com/o5xoe

Ann Cryer seeks new legislation to criminalise forced marriage

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, during the Second Reading of the Domestic Violence Bill, Ann Cryer sought Government backing to an amendment which would criminalise forced marriage. The full text of Ann Cryer's speech can be found on the House of Commons Hansard Debates website.

Paul Goggins, the Home Office Minister, said that the government was "sympathetic" to the idea and such an amendment would be discussed at Committee stage.

http://www.muslimparliament.org.uk/uproot.htm

http://news.scotsman.com/uk.cfm?id=531792004

West Yorkshire Police cannot find any offence as it is not a crime to accept money for a daughter or son’s hand. Ms Cryer says legislation is needed to prevent such forced "sales".

TaxCutter

I voted YES - a very easy decision.

"When it comes to protecting women, why are Blair's babes so silent?"

Its a very good question. Its hypocritical for Labour to tell us to increase our share of female MPS when, in 9 years, their own haven't addressed the imbalance between the sexes.

Paul Kennedy

A slight digrssion, but as a start the use of the term "Honour Killing" should not be allowed to be used in the Courts and if it were possible in the media as well, there is no honour in killing a totally innocent human being, it is murder and in these cases murder of the very worst kind, premeditated.

I'm not convinced that a proposed new law, admirable as it is and presented in such a professional manner by Louise, is workable for many of the reasons already given. As I see it, and I accept I might well be wrong, rape law could be used for any prosecution for which I understand the maximum sentence is life......whatever that now means.

TomTom

and I accept I might well be wrong, rape law could be used for any prosecution for which I understand the maximum sentence is life....

Let's get this right.......Mohammed in Bradford takes his young daughter to Manchester Airport to fly home to visit relatives in Mirpur. While there he tells his daughter she is marrying her cousin - she eventually recovers from the bruising and the full entreaties of the family. After a few months in Pakistan the British High Commission processes the paperwork for the bride and her fiance to fly to Manchester where he will move in with his in-laws in Bradford.

As a new wife - freshly pregnant - the new wife will not leave the house.

Just how do you propose to deal with this ?

Paul Kennedy

TomTom 02:01 pm

You can't unless the victim agrees to give evidence, which would be exactly the same situation for a "Forced Marriage Law", wouldn't it?

margot james

Louise Bagshawe is right, we need a law rendering forced marriage illegal. To deal with a few practical points raised by Paul Kennedy and others: I wouldn't want to rely on the law against rape to deal with forced marriage, lets get it working against rape first! Barely one in twenty rape charges result in a conviction so why should it work against forced marriage?

Bringing together all the elements of coercion, kidnap and rape together in one bill outlawing forced marriage would create a framework that might enhance the chances of obtaining a conviction. It would also create a more hostile cultural and legal environment to forced marriage which would act as a disincentive to all but the most determined transgressors.

In Denmark someone entering the country for the purposes of marriage must be at least 24 years old. Such a measure, even if we instituted it at the age of 21, would be a help in that forced marriages often involve young girls from outside Britain being brought over as so-called fiances or wives.

EML

As pointed out by numerous other contributors, isn't such a thing already covered by other legislation?

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