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Archive for September, 2013

Australian Research Council rejects funding to research growing problem of forced marriages

CRUCIAL funding to research the growing problem of teenage forced marriages was rejected by the under-fire Australian Research Council.

The federal and NSW governments have both questioned the decision to reject funding for the study, saying they fear child-bride marriages are far more common than previously thought. Associate Professor Jennifer Burn from the University of Technology, Sydney and Director of Anti-Slavery Australia, said she applied for funding to explore the issue of forced marriages in NSW, but her application was “knocked back” by the Council earlier this year.

Child bride reveals the dark secret of unspoken crime in Sydney 

The Australian Research Council (ARC) has been accused by the newly-elected federal government of “wasteful” spending on unnecessary projects. This includes grants for research into how people could adapt to climate change through public art, and another project into the meaning of “I” involving a retrospective study of 18th and 19th century German existentialists. Ms Burn said the area of forced marriages was under-researched and her project sought to quantify how prevalent it was in the community. “There’s a lot of work to be done,” Ms Burn told The Sunday Telegraph, adding that in NSW it was widely suspected to be a much bigger problem than on paper.

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Canada can make a difference in ending child and forced marriage

Every September, global leaders descend on New York for an annual rite of passage. They go to mark the ceremonial opening of the United Nations General Assembly. Often characterized by high-level presidential and prime ministerial speeches, the UNGA is also an opportunity for in-the-trenches progress toward making the world a better place. One such opportunity will take place this Wednesday, Sept. 25.

On that day, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will work to rally support from other countries to tackle an issue whose proper place, really, is in ancient history texts, but sadly continues to plague the world today: the ongoing practice of forcing children, mostly girls, to marry someone against their will. In the developing world, one in three girls takes wedding vows by the time she is 18. That translates into 14 million child marriages per year, often dooming these brides to lifelong servitude and misery. Clearly, child marriage is morally repugnant and a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that marriage requires “free and full consent.” But the issue goes well beyond human rights. Child marriage is a major impediment to poverty reduction and economic development. Child brides are almost always forced to drop their schooling and, thereby, become unable to contribute to achieving broader social and economic goals.

Enabling girls in developing countries to remain in school longer, on the other hand, would have a positive impact on them as well as the countries they live in. If children, especially girls, remain in school until at least age 15, they not only enhance essential reading and arithmetic knowledge but also learn life skills, including an appreciation of their basic rights and how to assert them.  As well, those extra years take them through puberty, a time when many girls in the world first confront forced marriages or are shunted away from the classroom to focus on housework and other chores. Indeed, a girl with some secondary education is less likely to marry too young than a girl with only primary education or less. Eradicating child marriage also has significant health benefits, not only for young brides. The earlier a girl becomes pregnant, the higher the risk of death for both her and her children due to pregnancy and childbirth complications. In developing nations, these complications are the leading cause of death for girls aged 15 to 19. And infant deaths are 50 per cent more likely in these cases .

Yet the heinous tradition of child and forced marriage is by no means only a developing world phenomenon. In 2012, as many as 1,485 possible forced marriage cases prompted the attention and resources of the U.K. government’s Forced Marriage Unit which has been tasked with combatting the practice of forced marriage within Britain. There are signs this issue has made its mark in Canada as well.

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In The Name of Honour Raises in Excess of £230,000 for Victims of Domestic Violence

Held in conjunction with Christie’s, the Sara Charlton Charitable Foundation (SCCF) hosted a charity gala and auction for In The Name of Honour, a ground-breaking Contemporary art exhibition at One Mayfair exploring violence against women, gender and the female body. Taking place from 19–22 September, the exhibition is open to the public, while the Gala Event last night, on 18 September, raised in excess of £230,000 through a live art auction of ten artworks, a silent auction of celebrity sketches as well as sales of artworks in the exhibition and pledges.

“We are overwhelmed by the amount of support we have received,” comment SCCF CEO and COO Antonia Packard and Rhea Gargour. “It is immensely inspiring to have had so many artists and celebrities donate their works for this cause, and all proceeds will go directly to those who are most in need of it – the amount of women suffering from domestic abuse and honour-based violence in the UK is staggering, and they often have little or no support networks to turn to. We hope that through events such as this we can start to change this. Thank you so much to all those involved and who have pledged their support to the Sara Charlton Charitable Foundation.”


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Afghan women gain education and rights but still face abuse, forced marriages

KABUL — In a hidden shelter on the edge of the Afghan capital, a dozen girls and women crouched on thin cushions one recent afternoon, their faces drawn with fatigue and fear. Some had been found wandering the streets; others had travelled long distances in flight from abusive families, forced marriages or unhappy lives.

Raya, 18, a pretty girl with green eyes, said that when her parents insisted she quit school and marry a man they had chosen, she ran away instead. “Now we are living in a democracy, so we should have the right to choose,” she said.  Shafia, 40, a hospital worker in an embroidered dress, told of being confined by her in-laws for 20 years. Last month, she fled. “I am an educated woman, and they wouldn’t even let me out to visit my parents,” she said. Twelve years after the overthrow of the Taliban, many Afghan women are caught in a confusing time warp. They are absorbing new ideas about freedom and rights through the Internet and attending school and college in record numbers. They are talking with men on cellphones and watching bedroom soap operas from India and Turkey.


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John Baird to lead UN session on kids forced into marriage

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is set to co-host a UN session looking at how to prevent early forced marriage in developing countries.

The session, “Too Young to Wed,” will discuss the plight of child brides and the implications on health and education for women when they’re married as children. Statistics provided by Baird’s office show girls under 15 years old are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s, and children born to mothers under 18 years old are 60 per cent more likely to die in their first year of life. Childbirth is the leading cause of death for girls 15 to 18 years old. Girls living in poverty are twice as likely to be married before they turn 18.

Baird and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are in New York City for UN meetings on women and children. Baird will also make a speech to the UN General Assembly.

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US probing Faisalabad forced marriage case

WASHINGTON – The US State Department is investigating a case of an American girl of Pakistani origin who is reportedly being held against her will in Faisalabad where her family took her from Forsyth County, Georgia, on a false pretext and is now being forced into an ‘arranged’ marriage, according US media reports.
A department official told an American television reporter that they were aware of the case, and an investigation was on. “Due to privacy concerns, we can’t comment further. We have to protect American citizens.” The State Department reacted after Ms Humna Sheikh’s ” fiance” Richard Jones, her American colleague at a store, brought the case to its attention. Jones told channel2 reporter that he and Humna were in love with each other. “We were trying to re-establish relationships with her family,” Jones said. Instead, he said things turned violent. Jones said when her brother, Adeel Sheikh, saw them together he assaulted him in a parking lot.

The reporter said he verified a police report on the incident which said Adeel “grabbed Humna, threatened her if she disobeyed him and forced her into his vehicle.” Jones said Humna sent him text messages that she was scared and claimed her family bought her a ticket to Dubai with a promise. “They told her if you go on this trip, when you come back we will accept your relationship with a non-Muslim,” Jones said. Humna’s alleged Facebook page showed that she posted pictures of her Dubai trip, but they stopped on Aug 13. Jones said her family told Humna while she was in Dubai that her father had a heart attack. “She was tricked by her family to go into Pakistan and as soon as she got to Pakistan, they abducted her. They locked her up in her house and took away her US passport and told her she cannot escape. They said if she tried, she would be killed or harmed. They were going to force her into a marriage with someone she does not know,” Jones said. “Are you 100 percent sure she didn’t try to get away and get away from you?” the reporter asked Jones. “150 percent sure,” he said. Jones created a website,, and a Facebook page.


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Tackling forced marriage in Bradford

People who’ve been affected by forced marriage in Bradford are meeting with the emergency services and people from local schools and colleges to look at the issues of honour based abuse.

It has been organised by a law firm in the city with the aim of raising awareness of some of the issues associated with honour based abuse and planning strategies for working together to support victims and encourage them to come forward.

By being attuned to the ‘signs’ and understanding the real and current threat that Forced Marriage poses to young women and men in Bradford, support professionals can link together more swiftly and effectively to prevent Forced Marriages from taking place. Together we can start to change the future for many young people in Bradford by making it easier and more acceptable for them to speak out and seek help.


Volunteer attacked while trying to rescue girl in Noida

A woman volunteer with the Noida chapter of Association for India’s Development (AID) was attacked and seriously injured while trying to rescue a minor girl being forced to marry in Sector 15 of Noida a few days ago. The girl was eventually rescued by her colleagues and produced before a Child Welfare Committee that has sent her to a shelter home. On the night of September 18, AID Noida’s Linkan Subbuddhi received a call from one of the students enrolled with her community school that she was being forced into marriage. Since the girl was a minor, Ms. Subuddhi decided to rescue her. The following morning she met the girl and was talking to her when a man attacked her.

Ms. Subuddhi tried to escape but was cornered at a dead end. The assailant then attempted to strangle her, pushed her down on the road and then hit her repeatedly on the head with a brick. The perpetrator fled the spot after the AID volunteer lost consciousness. Some members of the community rushed her to Kailash Hospital and she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. The girl was rescued by the other AID volunteers. Condemning the incident, an AID official said: “A few months ago, Ms. Subuddhi had intervened to protect the same student from forced marriage and then the girl’s mother had taken her to a village to marry her off. Ms. Subuddhi had then contacted the Child Welfare Committee and local authorities, who stepped in to protect the girl.” The community members also detained the girl’s mother and handed her over to the police, which have received a complaint regarding the attack on the AID Noida volunteer.

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Forced marriages a hidden problem in Canada

Ground-breaking study finds 219 reported cases over just 3 years, cutting across lines of culture and nationality. And there may be many more flying the radar.

A groundbreaking three-year study of forced marriage in Ontario has found more than 200 women who were wed against their will, a practice the report’s authors say highlights serious gaps in services. The first-of-its-kind report, being released at a Toronto news conference Friday, was conducted by the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario , which questioned 30 social service agencies about the practice. It found 219 reported cases between 2010 and 2012, with 97 per cent of the victims being women. The survey found the majority of victims, 81 per cent, were between 16 and 34 years old. The report found that parents, siblings, extended family, grandparents and religious leaders were all involved in pushing individuals into forced marriage. The reasons were mostly cultural (66 per cent), but honour, money and immigration purposes were also behind some forced marriages.

Haya, a woman now living in Mississauga who asked that her last name not be used, was forced to flee when her father decided to marry her off to a cousin. Sixteen at the time, she and her family were deported from Canada to Pakistan four years ago. It was there, she said, that her father announced the arranged marriage. She was held “prisoner” in her grandmother’s house. Her father confiscated her Pakistani passport. Eventually she escaped from Karachi to Islamabad, where she was able to contact Canadian officials, who gave her a temporary visa to return to Canada.

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