Think universal, act universal

The Muslim feminist and women’s rights activist Shaista Gohir summed it up in a tweet:

Forced marriage is criminalised today and the media irritatingly try and link this to British values! This is about human rights!

Yes it is! And human rights are not the monopoly of any one country or any one section of the globe or geographical direction or stage of development or anything else. Skip the patriotism, please, it’s beside the point.


  1. AsqJames says


    Also, there’s already The Forced Marriage Civil Protection Act 2007 and the change to make it a criminal offense may actually result in fewer at risk women/girls coming forward and seeking protection. From this article:

    The majority of groups which make up the Black and minority ethnic (BME) movement against violence against women in the UK, think the law will actually deter women from seeking legal redress. They regard it as little other than an example of the government’s hypocrisy, and its cynical use of gender to intensify repression, criminalisation and Islamophobia.

    I’m not qualified to assess how well founded such concerns may be, but in drafting such a law I do think it’s important to listen to the people it is supposedly designed to help, and this doesn’t give me much confidence the government have done so in good faith:

    In 2006, in the face of opposition from women’s organisations and community groups the government had to back down. This time, to avoid this recurring, after a remarkably short consultation period, the government has used the cunning device of counting 48 organisations from across the country as just one, allowing it to come up with a tally of 54 for the law and 37 against it.

  2. says

    Tehmina Kazi wrote an article responding to that one:

    Karma Nirvana, however, conducted its own research as part of the public consultation process. At 1,620 responses, the sample size is 81 times bigger than Ashiana’s, and all respondents (except for two neutral ones) supported criminalisation. There is also evidence to suggest that the criminalisation of forced marriage in other countries has led to an increase in reporting rates, rather than the opposite. Denmark criminalised the practice in 2008, and grassroots organisations like the Copenhagen-based LOKK have reported a surge of young people coming forward. Further, as Charlotte Rachel Proudman – family law barrister and author of Forced and Arranged Marriage Among South Asian Women in England and Wales: Critically Examining the Social & Legal Ramifications of Criminalisation points out, “Reporting of forced marriage in the UK has almost doubled since the Government announced on 8th June, 2012, that forced marriage would be criminalised. We had the same arguments for criminalising marital rape. Far from going underground, there has been a four-fold increase in reporting to police.” All the women who Proudman interviewed for her research stated that if forced marriage had been a criminal offence when they were forced to marry, they would have used the law as a “bargaining chip” to negotiate with their parents. They insisted that bringing perpetrators to justice was a more important concern than not demonising the communities which practice forced marriage.

  3. AsqJames says

    Thanks for the reassurance Ophelia – a good thing is still a good thing even if it’s being tied to, or sold on, nonsensical ideas (c.f. Atheists favourite bible verses ;-)).

    I do hope the legislative change is coupled with greater outreach to the “communities which practice forced marriage” and official engagement with the organisations already working in that sphere. Changing the law is only one factor in changing attitudes.

  4. Blanche Quizno says

    Pointing out that forced marriage is a human rights violation takes on a different shade when we remember that none of the Abrahamic religions recognize basic human rights. Not one verse in “holy writ” acknowledges that people have certain inalienable rights.

    They have none.

    And THIS is the mindset we are addressing when we speak of human rights – that term isn’t even in their religions’ vocabulary.

  5. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    Forced marriage was already illegal. Marriage laws in the UK made it plain that marriage depended on willing and unforced consent and that making people marry was illegal and punishable. The new law may make it more widely known, but it doesn’t make forced marriage any more illegal than it was.

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