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Forced marriage should be criminalised

Forced Marriage

12:04pm 1st July 2011
(Updated 10:49am 4th July 2011)

A courageous Yorkshire activist, who escaped a marriage to a man she never previously met, has brought her fight against forced marriages to the European Parliament.

Jasvinder Sanghera has spoken of her experience in setting up the UK's first national helpline for victims of forced marriages and her fight against this practice.

She's also the CEO of the Leeds-based organisation Nirvana Karma which receives over 500 calls a month for support, said:

Jasvinder says:

"There are thousands of cases reported but still very few prosecutions. This speaks volumes about how perpetrators are getting a way with this heinous crime.

"The UK government rescues around 400 British subjects every year and brings them back into the UK - 15% of which are men and one third of which are under the age of 17. This is a real issue that impacts on children and young people. I would be delighted to see greater EU cooperation on this issue."

Yorkshire & the Humber Liberal Democrat MEP Diana Wallis, who co-hosted the event, added:

"Forced marriage is an EU-wide issue and I think we need to start looking at EU-wide solutions. This hearing is a starting point but I think there is a need to bring together all the excellent work done in individual countries. For example, I would like to see funding for a network of victims' associations and perhaps funding for an EU safe haven for victims of forced marriage".

The issue of forced marriages is one which affects many EU countries and is generallyan issue within communities of immigrants from Asia and the Middle East. In most, but not all forced marriages, it is the female who is the involuntary spouse.

Although forced marriage is against the law throughout the EU, its exact definition varies. The lack of a generally accepted definition has hindered efforts to establish data on the numbers of forced marriages in the EU. In 2006, the UK scrapped an earlier plan to criminalise forced marriage. Inter alia, it feared that victims might be more reluctant to come forward if family members faced prosecution. However a 2011 UK Parliament report has backed criminal legislation. In 2011 forced marriage became a criminal offence in Scotland.

Belgium, Germany, Austria, Cyprus and Malta have criminalised the offence.

Hear our interview with Jasvinder Sanghera:

Hear our interview with Yorkshire MEP Diana Wallis:


Forced Marriage

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