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Archive for January, 2014

Meet the cops who save women from forced marriage

Last May, homicide detectives Chris Boughey and Jeff Balson were in the City Council chambers for Peoria, Ariz., recipients in the police department’s annual awards ceremony, when Balson received a text message:

“Help, I am out of the country and I don’t think I am ever going to get back. What do I do?”

The message was sent from a college-age woman whose family had sent her to the Middle East under the guise of visiting relatives. But they were worried that her Westernized behavior had dishonored them, and their actual aim was to force her into a marriage without her consent.

“As soon as she landed, her mom took her passport and documentation and said, ‘Forget everything you have ever known about America, because you are never going back,’” said Balson, who would not reveal the woman’s country of origin or name to protect her identity.

According to Balson, 39, the girl did nothing shameful. One of her friends had tagged her in a group photo on Facebook. A family member abroad saw it and alerted her parents. He said the photo was “not risqué” and there was “no skin showing.” But there were boys, and the photo looked as though it had been taken in a bar or club.

While she was abroad, she and Balson sent secret messages using a secure messaging app. He and Boughey were planning her escape.

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Syrian refugees forced to let Lebanese landlord marry their 14-year-old daughter because they cannot afford the rent

A 14-year-old girl who escaped the bloody fighting in Syria is being forced to marry a 44-year-old stranger in exchange for her family’s safe refuge across the border.

Hanifa Amar’s parents say they can no longer afford the $250 (£150) monthly rent at a house they fled to in neighbouring Lebanon. The landlord has agreed to let them stay, but only if Hanifa becomes his second wife.Wiping away tears, Hanifa told Al Jazeera: ‘My whole life is destroyed. I don’t want to marry him, but if I do my family can stay in this house.’

The teenager had hoped to marry her 22-year-old cousin, but he died fighting in Syria last year. Instead, she now has to take desperate measures to help her family survive after they were threatened with eviction. Her mother, Mysa, says they cannot risk moving into a tent because her husband suffers from heart problems and she fears her asthmatic son could die in the bitter cold.

Her other son, who is 12, earns the little money they have by helping a mechanic, but this is barely enough to pay for food. Mrs Amar said: ‘No mother wants to hurt her child, but we have no choice.’

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‘I was playing outside when my mother told me I would marry. My life was ruined’: Ethiopian child bride, forced into marriage at 10, pregnant at 13 and widowed by 14, on the moment her world changed forever

Alemtsahye Gebrekidan was 10 when her childhood came to an abrupt end. ‘I was playing outside and my mum called me inside to the house,’ she remembers of the day her world changed forever. ‘She said “you’re going to marry”. I was surprised and I cried but I didn’t say anything to them [her parents].’ Her wedding, to a boy of 16, took place just two months later.

Shocking though it might seem, her experience is by no means unique. According to World Health Organisation figures, 14.2 million girls under the age of 15 are forced into marriage each year. Most come from India, the Middle East, and like Alemtsahye herself, from sub-Saharan Africa – Niger, Chad, the Central African Republic and Ethiopia among them.

The consequences are appalling. Along with an education and childhood cut short, girls suffer a traumatic initiation into sexual relationships, are put at risk of domestic violence and STI’s, and have the chance of a career or better life taken away. Worse, many also die in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications – the leading cause of death for girls aged between 15 and 19 years old in developing countries, according to UN figures.’

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Londoners are ‘morally ambiguous’ about forced marriage, experts warn

Too many young Londoners are  “morally ambiguous” about forced marriage and must be taught about human rights, campaigners warned today.

A new study of the views of young people from immigrant families found some believe forced marriage can be “good” for women and is done with their best interests at heart.

Researchers found that while the same group of young Londoners are against female genital mutilation, there is more acceptance of  forced marriage.

Naana Otoo-Oyortey, executive director of the charity FORWARD, which commissioned the report, said many people still support the supposed reasons why forced marriage happens, such as protecting virginity.

The report concluded that raising awareness of “the absolute nature of human rights” is vital in combatting both forced marriage and FGM. Ms Otoo-Oyortey said: “Notions of chastity were very strong even among those who say they are liberal”, and forced marriage was seen as “an acceptable way of stopping girls being  promiscuous.”

She added that people are now more willing to speak about female genital mutilation, but that forced marriage is the “new taboo.” Researchers questioned a group of 18- to 30-year-olds living in London whose families are from countries where FGM and forced marriage occur, including Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and Nigeria.

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700 calls made to forced marriage charity in the Midlands

A charity which helps victims of forced marriage and honour abuse has started a pilot project at a school in Yorkshire, to help teachers spot the warning signs. Karma Nirvana was founded by Jasvinder Sanghera from Derby, after she was disowned by her family for refusing to marry.

The charity receives calls for help from hundreds of victims across the country and says cities in the Midlands are hotspots for potential victims.

Almost 430 calls were made to the charity from the West Midlands last year:

  • 193 from Birmingham
  • 151 from Stoke-on-Trent
  • 84 from Walsall

Over 270 calls were made to the charity from the East Midlands last year:

  • 120 from Derby
  • 98 from Nottingham
  • 56 from Leicester

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Three expat sisters refuse to board plane to avoid forced marriage

The girls told the police they were born and lived in the UAE and were scared that their newly married father would force them to marry in Mauritania. 

Three young Mauritanian sisters who refused to travel to their home country because they feared being forced into marriage, were put up in the Dubai Women and Children’s Foundation after the General Department of Human Rights intervened.

The flight on which the girls were to travel on Tuesday was delayed as they refused to board the plane, but the situation was later resolved after the girls agreed that they would be accompanied by their estranged mother to their home country to live. Dr Mohammed Al Murr of the General Department of Human Rights said that an employee of the Immigration Department at the Dubai Police informed the Women and Children’s Protection Department of the Dubai Police about the three girls, aged 21, 15, and 12, who were allegedly being forced to travel back home to stay with other family members there.

The three girls told the police they were born in the UAE and spent their life here and were scared that their father would force them to marry in Mauritania. Their father, who has been in the UAE for 30 years, tried to send the girls back to their home country as he had recently married a new woman in Dubai, and said he couldn’t cope looking after her children as well as his own. Upon refusing to board the plane, the girls said they did not know their father’s family well enough and were scared to go and live with them.

The girls’ mother, who the father had divorced some years back, was living in Tanzania where she too married another man, but later divorced him.

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Rights group says laws failing to protect girls from forced early marriages

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Cultural traditions and a lack of legal protections are driving tens of millions of girls around the world into early marriage, subjecting them to violence, poverty and mistreatment, an international human rights group says.

Equality Now, citing the United Nations Population Fund, said in a report issued over the weekend that more than 140 million girls over the next decade will be married before they turn 18. “When a young girl is married and gives birth, the vicious cycle of poverty, poor health, curtailed education, violence, instability, disregard for rule of law … continues into the next generation, especially for any daughters she may have,” the report said.

The 32-page report found that despite laws that set a minimum age for marriage in many countries, social norms continue to provide a veneer of legitimacy to child marriage in remote villages and even in developed countries. Child marriage is defined as a marriage before age 18.

“Child marriage legitimizes human rights violations and abuses of girls under the guise of culture, honour, tradition and religion,” the report said. The report gave examples of cases in countries such as Afghanistan, Cameroon, Guatemala, India, Jordan, Kenya, Malawi and Mali.

Often when child brides are married off to older men, it is to restore or maintain family honour, or to settle a father’s debts or obtain some other financial gain. A girl married off is seen as one less mouth to feed, and the wedding dowry is spent by her family to support itself.

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Morocco MPs Ask to End Rapist Marriage Law After Teen Suicide

The justice and legislation committee voted to scrap a clause in the penal code that stipulates there can be no grounds for lawsuits against those “who abducted or seduced a minor girl who has reached puberty, if she marries the person who abducted or seduced her,” the state-run MAP news agency said.

The Justice and Development Party, the moderate Islamist group that leads the government, endorsed the repeal after 16-year-old Amina Filali killed herself in 2012 by swallowing rat poison after six months of forced marriage to her rapist. The case sparked national outcry and focused media attention on the condition of women in a country that prides itself on being a haven of stability and religious tolerance in the Muslim world. Support from the governing Islamists, who hold about a quarter of seats in parliament, means the law is likely to be repealed when it comes to a vote in the assembly.

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Partington man drags 18-year-old sister off bus hours after she she was granted a forced marriage protection order

A PARTINGTON man dragged his 18-year-old sister off a bus just hours after she had been granted a forced marriage protection order by magistrates in Manchester.

Fahad Shoshan, 30, of Staffordshire Court, and another brother, had approached their sister in Piccadilly and asked her to come home, claiming their mother was ill. When she refused and got on the bus Shoshan followed and grabbed her around the neck, forcing her onto the pavement. The victim managed to cling onto a post and re-board and passengers then came to her rescue, said Prosecutor Holly Holden.

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