Friday, June 15, 2012

Forced Marriage Not OK in the UK

Forced marriage to become a criminal offence

8 June 2012
Forcing someone to marry will become a criminal offence in England and Wales, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has announced.

The decision to make forced marriage an offence follows a 12-week consultation, to which ECPAT UK submitted its response, focusing on children who are trafficked for forced marriage into and out of the UK.

In 2009, ECPAT UK and the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE) published a ground-breaking report on the trafficking of children for forced marriage in the UK, called Stolen Futures, which found that children were being trafficked out of the UK to be forcibly married abroad and children who were trafficked to the UK on the basis of a false promise of marriage were ending up in sexual exploitation and domestic servitude (see case studies below).

Our research, which  documented 48 cases of suspected trafficking for forced marriage, also found evidence that migrant children were arriving in the UK on forged identity documents to make them appear older, having been forced into a marriage in their own country to a UK citizen.

We noted that there was little data on this aspect of trafficking internationally and within the UK, due to a lack of systematic data collection on child trafficking in all its forms.

As a result of this research, ECPAT UK highlighted issues for immediate attention:

-    The need for more practitioner awareness that forced child marriage can be both a cause and a consequence of human trafficking
-    The need for more research, in particular deeper understanding of the emotional and psychological impact of forced marriage on children
-    Analysis of the effectiveness of civil penalties in the Forced Marriage Act to understand whether a criminal offence should be introduced

Therefore, ECPAT UK welcomes the Government’s announcement that a range of new measures focusing on increased protection and support for victims will accompany the new law, which is unlikely to be put before Parliament before 2013.

Also included in the measures will be the introduction of criminal penalties for breaches of civil forced marriage protection orders, which can be used to prevent children being taken abroad to marry.

Mr Cameron said: “Forced marriage is abhorrent and little more than slavery. To force anyone into marriage against their will is simply wrong and that is why we have taken decisive action to make it illegal.”

According to the Home Office, the Forced Marriage Unit has provided advice or support in nearly 600 cases this year, with 14% of these involving children below the age of 15.

Christine Beddoe, Director of ECPAT UK, said: “ECPAT UK research has shown that forced child marriage, where it involves the movement of a child for exploitation, is a manifestation of trafficking. Put quite simply, it is child abuse.

“We welcome the Government’s moves to increase protection for victims and to tackle those who seek to exploit children and adults in this way. However, we would also urge it to carefully monitor the impact of criminalising forced marriage on the children and young people involved.”

Christine Beddoe, Director, ECPAT UK
Tel:             0207 233 9887    

Information for editors:
- ECPAT UK is a leading UK children’s rights organisation that exists to end the commercial exploitation of children. We focus on protecting children from both trafficking and exploitation in tourism. This is done by campaigning, providing training, and working with other NGOs and professionals from around the world. We also work directly with child victims of both sexual and labour exploitation by helping them recover and giving them a voice to speak out.
- Read ECPAT UK’s Stolen Futures: Trafficking for Forced Marriage in the UK

Case Study 1:
A 12 or 13 year old girl (at time of referral), from Pakistan, was brought over to live with her aunt. She was sent back to Pakistan for an ‘arranged marriage’ and became pregnant. This was not picked up until the baby suffered a non accidental injury. The local hospital did not make a referral about it even though they had a 13 year old giving birth in the hospital with no one having parental responsibility for the child. The girl also attended school but had stopped for two years and no referral was made about the fact that she was pregnant. They felt that the Sexual Offences Act did not apply as the baby was conceived abroad. (Bordering on Concern: Child Trafficking in Wales, ECPAT UK, 2009)

Case Study 2:
In 2007 there was a case in which a girl, 17 years old, was treated as a house domestic slave. She had been married and brought here. We were contacted via the FMU and identified where she was, but the family was obstructive and did not let us enter the house. She was being used as a domestic slave. She was made to do all the work and cleaning and her mother in law and husband were verbally and physically abusive towards her. She was not allowed out or the opportunity to learn English and was very isolated. We have found that in some cases the abuse comes from the in-laws and mothers-in-law. The girls are forced to do household chores and receive no education and have no communication outside family – they are not even allowed out of the family home. (Detective Constable, Metropolitan Police, 9.6.08 – taken from Stolen Futures, ECPAT UK, 2009)

Case Study 3:
In January 2007, a 16 year old Iraqi girl was forced by her uncle to withdraw from school with the intention to send her back to Iraq to marry. She came to the police. The family reported her as missing. Social services got involved and placed her in temporary foster care. But she succumbed to family pressure to return home and was back in the same situation and contacted social services urgently. She was removed from the family again and placed in supported housing services. Social services became aware there was no communication from her, pursued an Interim Care Order and her passport was seized. It had only a month before it expired. However, her uncle had applied for a new passport and the girl travelled on it out of the country. Back in Iraq we were supported by the FCO representative and a local NGO. But the girl was unable to travel back to the UK. There was difficulty in getting her out because of her insecure immigration status. At ages 16 to 17 there is a significant problem in accessing help - safe housing and accommodation. (Detective Constable, Metropolitan Police, London, 9.6.08 – taken from Stolen Futures, ECPAT UK, 2009)

Case Study 4:
A Bangladeshi woman, who is now 22, was married at 16 when her father and her husband’s father, who were friends, agreed that’s how their marriages would take place. Her husband had been born and brought up here and she was born and brought up in some village in Bangladesh. Her husband was not working and on drugs; he used to beat her, as did the mother-in-law and sisters-in-law. She was like their slave. He was only 18 when he was married and she was 16. She was brought in really to help the mother-in-law take care of her four or five other children. They got the oldest son married hoping that this woman will come along and help the mother-in-law to bring up his siblings. (Director, NGO, London, 29.7.08 – taken from Stolen Futures, ECPAT UK, 2009)

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