Child marriage in Britain

Maryam reports that there’s growing evidence that very young girls are being “married” to much older men in Sharia courts in the UK. Girls as young as five.

A recent undercover investigation by the Sunday Times found imams in Britain willing to “marry” young girls, provided this was carried out in secret. The imams had been approached by an undercover reporter posing as a father who said he wanted his 12 year old daughter married, to prevent her from being tempted in to a “western lifestyle”.

Imam Mohammed Kassamali, of the Husaini Islamic Centre in Peterborough, sanctioned the marriage, but stressed the need for total secrecy. He stated: “I would love the girl to go to her husband’s houses (sic) as soon as possible, the younger the better. Under sharia (Islamic law) there is no problem. It is said she should see her first sign of puberty at the house of her husband. The problem is that we cannot explain such things (the marriage) if the girl went tomorrow (to the authorities).”

Clearly “married” means “imprisoned” and “prevented from ever having adult autonomy and freedom.” It means being cut off from adulthood before it starts.

Maryam’s One Law for All is helping to stop this; you can help One Law for All.

One important way to tackle this matter is to galvanise support for the Arbitration and Mediation (Equality) Bill introduced to the House of Lords last year by crossbench peer, Baroness Caroline Cox. The Bill is due for a second reading in October.

The Government has so far declined to support Cox’s Bill. They do not believe there is a parallel legal system in operation. They also insist that everyone has full right of access to the British courts. This is simply not the case. There are many with little or no English language skills, trapped by community pressure, who believe Sharia courts operate as real courts and who regard their decisions as legally binding. The idea that they can easily instruct a high street solicitor to help them access their full rights under UK law is far from reality.

The Government must be pressured into taking immediate action, including by supporting Cox’s Bill, and shutting down Sharia and religious courts. If child welfare takes precedence then the Government is duty-bound to take action.

Sign our new petition in support of Baroness Cox’s Bill; tell the Government that enough is enough! Please sign it now.

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  1. Francisco Bacopa says

    What they need to do is get a message to those 12-16 year olds that they can’t be married, or even really betrothed, to ANYONE, and that if push comes to shove they can GTFO. Of course, someone needs to fund places they can GTFO to, and have them be good and safe places without much culture shock.

  2. Musical Atheist says

    Signed. The limitations faced by marginalised women in the UK make me so very angry. Regarding refugees and asylum-seekers specifically, I often wonder about whose job it is to ensure that women coming to the UK actually know their legal rights. For instance, whose job is it to tell a woman newly resident in the UK that she has an absolute legal right to access contraception from her doctor, without her husband’s permission? Whose job is it to inform women of laws regarding marital rape and domestic violence? I’m not sure it is anyone’s.

    Many men and women who come to the UK as asylum-seekers (from a wide variety of places and situations) are educated, literate and empowered; some are illiterate in their first language, which poses unique challenges when learning a second language in a culture in which literacy is essential for daily life, and makes integration and social empowerment tremendously difficult. When these difficulties are entrenched by limited access to language classes, social stigma and prejudice and the traumatic necessity of starting your entire life again in a sometimes hostile environment, sometimes having lost everything, the result is the disastrous locked-in insularity that puts vulnerable people at the mercy of parallel community arbitration systems without knowing their rights.

  3. Musical Atheist says

    Francisco, I think that education on safety issues facing children needs to begin in primary schools. In UK primary schools it is standard (or it was when I was a kid) to have professionals from various fields come in to talk about fire safety, citizenship, stranger-danger, etc. I don’t know what provision is currently made in schools regarding children being given clear options for self-protection in the home via organisations such as Childline.

  4. yahweh says

    I loved this bit:

    “While some Muslims interpret Islamic law as allowing girls to marry as soon as they reach puberty, the practice is frowned upon by the majority.”

    I, too, frown upon statutory rape.

  5. yahweh says

    and of course “allowing girls to marry”.

    Just can’t stop ’em doing it, can you? Of their own volition, naturally.

  6. Trebuchet says

    @Yahweh: Since there’s no consent involved, it’s not even statutory rape as far as I’m concerned — just plain old forcible rape.

  7. dirigible. says

    ” I don’t know what provision is currently made in schools regarding children being given clear options for self-protection in the home via organisations such as Childline.”

    My youngest has been told about Childline by the school. Which is good.

    But, anecdotally, schools tend not to make a fuss if girls disappear from the register.

  8. dianne says

    Are non-Brits allowed to sign this petition? What if you come from a country without laws regulating minimum age at marriage and with political sub-units (i.e. states) that may allow 5-year olds to “marry”* if they have a judge’s order and parental permission?

    *I don’t know if anyone would actually do it, but in principle, there are no minimum ages in some states, as long as a judge and the parents agree. So in principle, you could marry an infant if everyone (except the child, obviously) consented.

  9. mnb0 says

    I used to be tolerant towards sharia arbitration and mediation – equal rights and so forth.
    Not anymore. This is totally unacceptable. Young children can’t defend themselves.
    I signed ánd I made sure some Dutch and Flemish atheists know about the petition.
    Thanks, OB. This stuff is why I read your articles.

  10. Gordon Willis says

    The Government has so far declined to support Cox’s Bill. They do not believe there is a parallel legal system in operation. They also insist that everyone has full right of access to the British courts.

    So, how does a 5-year-old get access to the British legal system? Or, for that matter, a 12-year-old? Or a 14-year-old? Or a 17-year-old? Isn’t stupidity a major cause of oppression?

  11. Haggis says

    I find this post a bit confusing. Can you explain how the proposed law would protect children like the ones in the Sunday Times investigation?

    What is happening to them is already illegal and British civil law cannot be over-ruled by religious courts. The problem is, as you quoted above, that people do not know their rights and how to get access to legal protection and I do not see how this law changes that. Can you clarify how this helps?


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