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Forced marriage and minority communities

Forced marriage and minority communities

Categories: Latest News

Friday May 09 2014

The Independent and ITV News report on the first national conference on forced marriage in Derby.

The Independent observes the comments made by the Chair of the National Commission on Forced Marriage, Baroness Butler-Sloss, who iterates earlier affirmation by the Metropolitan Police Service that forced marriage affects all communities. Butler-Sloss states: “We have discovered that it is not exclusively a Muslim issue. It is an issue that affects other minority communities for instance Sikhs, Hindus, Orthodox Jews, and indeed any group that values the tight-knit community of which it is part and is very concerned that members of that community should not marry outside the community”.

While the Independent reports statistics from the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit which shows that among the 1,302 cases that were reported to its helpline, 42.7% of the victims were Pakistani, 10.9% were from India, and 9.8% were from Bangladeshi. But the Unit’s statistical report for January to December 2013 states the unit handled cases involving 74 countries including Pakistan, India, Bangladesh (to which these percentages refer to) as well as Afghanistan (2.8%), Somalia (2.5%), Iraq (1.5%), Nigeria (1.1%), Saudi Arabia (1.1%), Yemen (1%), Iran (0.8%), Tunisia (0.8%), The Gambia (0.7%), Egypt (0.6%) and Morocco (0.4%). The origin was unknown in 5.4% of cases.

The paper quotes Jasvinder Sanghera, founder of Karma Nirvana, who said that it was “not helpful” to focus on Muslim communities although the problem remained “disproportionately” reported among those groups.

Phil Brewster in his report for ITV News states, “1000s of girls and young women in the UK each year, this is their fate – taken abroad and forced to marry against their will”, while images of young girls with older Pakistani men are shown.

ITV News also uses a picture of 6 niqab wearing Muslim women as it goes on to reveal Government estimates on “at least 5000 women each year in the UK [being] forced to marry against their will.”

The media coverage appears to echo the Runnymede’s Trust findings about one of the dominant representations of Muslims being related to gender, forced marriages and honour killings. From media coverage of the murder of Shafilea Ahmed, the assumption of forced marriage and honour killings being a ‘Muslim’ problem was certainly pronounced.

Furthermore, coverage on forced marriage and honour killings has tended to occur outside the wide context of violence against women, whether from majority or minority communities. Indeed, following the visit on behalf of the UN Humans Rights Council, Rashida Manjoo, spoke out against Britain’s sexist culture saying it was more ‘pervasive’ and ‘in your face’ than in any other country she had visited.

Owen Jones in a column in The Guardian explored the bigger picture of domestic violence. Jones noted that “The national charity Women’s Aid estimates that 1.2 million women experienced it last year, and that one in four women will suffer it in their lifetime. Up to two women are killed by a current or ex-partner each week, and though most incidents are not reported, police receive a domestic violence-related phone call every 30 seconds. Violence against women is a pandemic, and needs to be treated as such.”


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