Search

My battle against forced marriages—Justice Minister Prentice speaks out

PUBLISHED: 12:45 01 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:35 05 October 2010

Justice Minister Prestice meets volunteers running women's refuge

Justice Minister Prestice meets volunteers running women's refuge

A CONVERTED house in a back street in East London has become refuge for women caught up in a hidden problem of forced marriages. Some have been abducted and even raped to force them into a marriage against their will. The women are used in order to get visas for men to slip into Britain through the back door. But now a bill has gone through Parliament which becomes law in October to tackle the scourge of forced marriages. Justice Minister Bridget Prentice, who visited the refuge, explains in this special East London Advertiser report why legislation was needed:

A CONVERTED house in a back street in East London has become refuge for women caught up in a hidden problem of forced marriages. Some have been abducted and even raped to force them into a marriage against their will.

The women are used in order to get visas for men to slip into Britain through the back door. But now a bill has gone through Parliament which becomes law in October to tackle the scourge of forced marriages.

Justice Minister Bridget Prentice, who has visited the refuge, explains in this special East London Advertiser report why legislation was needed:

+++

By Bridget Prentice

IT IS unacceptable that women in a modern, multi-cultural city like London are still suffering injustices of forced marriages.

That is why I have put the fight against forced marriage and domestic violence at the heart of my role as a Justice Minister.

Forcing someone into a marriage is unacceptable and the Government is working to make it stop.

I visited the Ashiana project in East London, which provides support to women who are either survivors of domestic violence or currently experiencing it.

Ashiana is unique because it offers an outreach service for women having difficulties at home and acts as a safe haven’ for victims of forced marriage.

The Ashiana Project demonstrates the vital role that the Voluntary Sector can play in tackling this problem.

Forced marriage is largely misunderstood. It is not an arranged’ marriage, where the couples have a choice of their parents’ selection. It is not unique to any one religion or culture, nor is it justified by any religious or cultural issue.

Forced marriage is a form of domestic violence and an abuse of human rights. Victims may suffer mental and physical abuse, abduction, unlawful imprisonment, loss of property and assets, humiliation and rape.

This can lead to a loss of self-confidence, removal from the home or familiar environment and in the worst cases death.

I recently learned about a 27-year-old woman named Sunita who contacted the Forced Marriage Unit, the Government’s one-stop shop’ for support and information to victims.

Sunita had been taken back home to India for a family holiday. But she was forced to marry a cousin of her sister-in-law.

The man had raped her and she was pregnant. Sunita was extremely traumatised.

The Forced Marriage Unit investigated the case and found that Sunita had been previously married to four other men in India. Her parents had lied to her, saying they had arranged the divorces when they hadn’t.

She had been forced to sign forms that she did not understand, including application forms for her new husband’s visa.

But she was terrified of what he might do to her if he was allowed into the UK. So the Forced Marriage Unit was able to have the visa refused.

Sadly, what happened to Sunita is not an isolated case. In 2007 alone, the unit and the Ashiana project in Walthamstow has dealt with more than 700 cases.

The Forced Marriage Act comes into force November 25, a powerful tool that will go a long way alongside current criminal protection to ensuring no-one is forced into marriage against their will. Women already in such marriages will also receive protection.

The Act gives courts the power to prevent forced marriages taking place.

They can make a Forced Marriage Protection Order, for example, to stop someone forcing another into marriage. A breach of such an order could lead to rison.

Police and courts are also able to treat many of the practices used in forced marriage such as kidnap and assault as criminal offences and deal with them accordingly.

These women aren’t alone in their pain. We all suffer when human rights are violated.

Bridget Prentice, Justice Minister

Latest East London News Stories

11:00

An advice clinic set up as a temporary free service at Stratford following cuts to legal aid has won a funding contract for a permanent operation.

Yesterday, 18:00

Optician director Jayesh Maru has seen his way to the ancient mountain-top Inca capital of Machu Picchu and has found his way back to east London.

Yesterday, 13:36

Children have spent four years researching the life of a pupil at their school more than 100 years ago who was later awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously after being killed in the First World War.

Yesterday, 09:54

Small businesses occupying railway arches in east London facing crippling rent rises as much as 350 per cent have been promised a tenants’ charter to safeguard their trading.

Yesterday, 09:00

The indie/folk band Bon Iver will close the second All Points East festival with a headline gig in Victoria Park on Sunday June 2.

Mon, 18:00

Live TV cameras are going behind the scenes at the Royal London Hospital to record how surgeons operate.

Mon, 15:41

A serving East London police officer in the has been found guilty of allowing laundered money to be held in his bank account.

Mon, 07:00

NHS staff at hospitals across east London are almost twice as likely to be victims of abuse as the national average, according to the results of an England-wide healthcare survey.

PROMOTED CONTENT

Are you a landlord looking for a fixed rental income, paid whether the property is empty or not? Steve Westley, general manager at estate agents Elliot Leigh, explains their Guaranteed Rent Scheme and how it takes the stress out of letting your property.

Newsletter Sign Up

East London Advertiser twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Docklands and East London Advertiser
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now