Posts Tagged ‘criminalisation’

FGM: A tale of force, emotional blackmail and evil dreams

She saw the blade, but dared not move. That was the command! If she did, it would haunt her, her children and the generations to come. That was the cultural notion.

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FGM: A tale of force, emotional blackmail and evil dreams

By Caroline Ariba

Added 31st December 2015

The closer the rusty blade got to her, the more frightened she was.

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Syada Chebet (middle) is now an activist against Female Genital Mutilation in her village

She saw the blade, but dared not move. That was the command! If she did, it would haunt her, her children and the generations to come. That was the cultural notion.


Syada Chebet, only a teenager then, told herself it was indeed for the best. So if she braved the knife, that funny-looking blade, just for a second, it would be just fine.

Her future would be just fine.  It was only part of her genitalia, it should be fine, she thought.

“It will not take long, it cannot take long,” she soothed herself.  She would let the wrinkly and mean-looking old lady sucking on a tobacco pipe, cut her genitalia. After all, they said it should take a second, right? No, it did not!

The closer, the rusty blade got, the more frightened she got. So, she thought to herself: “I can run, I will run!” Sadly, before she could react, two giant men tore her thighs apart, and pressed them on each side.

“Stay down!” they commanded, all the while stepping on her thighs.

The old woman, also the village’s mutilation surgeon, had since abandoned her pipe and had now started speaking like she was possessed. With her rough fingers, the old woman latched onto Chebet’s genitalia, and pulled.

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Forget cultural practices – forced marriage is abhorrent

In 2012, the UK’s Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 1,485 cases. 13 percent of those involved victims under 15 years old; 22 percent involved victims aged 16-17.

Under a section of the Antisocial Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill, now going through the House of Lords, parents who “coerce, pressure or abuse” their children into marriage could face prison sentences.   In November, The Times reported that two anthropologists had warned the Home Office that the law is doomed to fail women, because brides who send their relatives to jail will be rejected by their South Asian families. Their report criticised the new law for demonising other cultures.


The authors, Roger Ballard, Director of the Centre for Applied South Asian Studies, based in Stalybridge, near Manchester, and Fauzia Shariff, a School of African and Oriental Studies academic, called supporters of the law “ill-informed pedlars of ‘improvement'”. Their report said the new law would be widely viewed as an effort to undermine minorities’ cultural traditions, in favour of “superior” Euro-American practices.  The authors — while not defending forced marriage (which, in a chillingly Orwellian manner, they refer to as “myopically arranged marriages” or “ill-judged familial initiatives”) clearly believe criminalisation will do more harm than good, and instead recommend policy initiatives “supporting efforts to resolve intra-familial contradictions on the basis of ‘traditional’ processes of renegotiation” – whatever they might be.

We can all be sensitive to the idea that other cultures have ways of living that may be as valuable as the “Euro-American” model — a happily and consensually-arranged marriage may be at least as good an environment for children as a household of multiple divorces. But we should profoundly object to the moral relativism implied in the attack on the Bill. Forced marriage reflects a worldview in which women cannot act individually and cannot have agency over their sexual behaviour without bringing shame, and thus must be forcibly prevented from being autonomous. It reflects a culture where women do not have the freedoms accorded to men.

In a Times column criticising Ballard and Shariff, David Aaronovitch wrote: “We criminalise forced marriage because, as a society, we believe it is wrong and we stand on the side of the victim.” As a young woman in 21st-century Britain, I look back through history in horror at a time when I might have been bundled off to marry someone, perhaps much older than me, against my will, whom I did not love. Luckily for me that bleak prospect is a thing of the past.

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Groups dealing with ‘honour’ crime victims need better tools: women’s council

Quebec’s Council for the Status of Women says groups that deal with children and families should be given better tools on dealing with cultural differences and so-called ‘honour’ crimes.

The Council studied 26 instances of honour crimes that have taken place in Canada since 1991. Twenty-one of those women or girls were murdered; five survived their attacks. Researchers, however, say the numbers could be higher and much is hidden.

The four murders of the Shafia women and girls in 2009 is considered the most severe case.

In fact it was the Shafia murders that prompted the provincial government to ask the Council to examine honour crimes and see what could be done to stop them.

“We feel it’s urgent to train the groups; the social workers who are dealing with potential victims of honour-based violence, said Julie Miville-Dechene, president of the Council on the Status of Women.  The analysis says in many ways honour crimes are similar to conjugal violence, except that instead of just one person attempting to control a woman, with honour crimes members of an extended family can seek to exert control over a woman or girl.

Honour crimes can consist of confining a woman to her home, forcing her to wear certain clothing, arranged marriages, genital mutilation or murder. “These violent acts are not exclusive to any one culture or religion,” said Miville-Dechene. “It wasn’t that long ago that in Quebec underage and unmarried women were sent away from home if they got pregnant,” and often forced to give up their children.

The Council said there should be legal changes made to make it easier to grant injunctions against family members — and not just spouses. “What we are saying is that in certain cases related to honour-crime violence, parents could be complicit,” said Miville-Dechene.

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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.

No money to save our child brides

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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Spoon in underwear saving youths from forced marriage

LONDON, England — As Britain puts airport staff on alert to spot potential victims of forced marriage, one campaigning group says the trick of putting a spoon in their underwear has saved some youngsters from a forced union in their South Asian ancestral homelands. The concealed spoon sets off the metal detector at the airport in Britain and the teenagers can be taken away from their parents to be searched — a last chance to escape a largely hidden practice wrecking the lives of unknown thousands of British youths.

The British school summer holidays, now well under way, mark a peak in reports of young people — typically girls aged 15 and 16 — being taken abroad on “holiday”, for a marriage without consent, the government says. The bleep at airport security may be the last chance they get to escape a marriage to someone they have never met in a country they have never seen. The spoon trick is the brainchild of the Karma Nirvana charity, which supports victims and survivors of forced marriage and honour-based abuse. Based in Derby, central England, it fields 6,500 calls per year from around Britain but has almost reached that point so far in 2013 as awareness of the issue grows. When petrified youngsters ring, “if they don’t know exactly when it may happen or if it’s going to happen, we advise them to put a spoon in their underwear,” said Natasha Rattu, Karma Nirvana’s operations manager.


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Female genital mutilation: 30 million girls ‘at risk’

The challenge is to let people – men and women – have their voices heard on the issue, Unicef says


Hudan Mohammed Ali, 6, screams in pain while undergoing circumcision in Hargeisa (archive shot)


More than 30 million girls are at risk of being subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) over the next decade, a study by Unicef has found.

It said more than 125 million girls and women alive today had undergone a procedure now opposed by the majority in countries where it was practised. Ritual cutting of girls’ genitals is practised by some African, Middle Eastern and Asian communities in the belief it protects a woman’s virginity.

Unicef wants action to end FGM. The UN Children Fund survey, described as the most comprehensive to date on the issue, found that support for FGM was declining amongst both men and women. FGM “is a violation of a girl’s rights to health, well-being and self-determination,” said Unicef deputy executive director Geeta Rao Gupta, “What is clear from this report is that legislation alone is not enough.”

‘Speak out loudly’

The report, ‘Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change’, was released in Washington DC. The study, which pulled together 20 years of data from the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where FGM is still practised, found girls were less likely to be cut than they were some 30 years ago. They were three times less likely than their mothers to have been cut in Kenya and Tanzania, and rates had dropped by almost half in Benin, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Liberia and Nigeria.


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Schools must do more to protect students from female genital mutilation

Many teachers have little knowledge or training about FGM. Louise Tickle looks at what they can do to safeguard students.

Mots of teachers aren’t even aware that female genital mutilation (FGM) goes on, says Lisa Zimmerman, a teacher at Bristol City Academy. She campaigns against FGM through the charity Integrate Bristol, which she co-founded five years ago. Zimmerman runs high-profile extra-curricular activities including plays and films looking at the issues raised by FGM in order to combat the practice. Despite all this, she says, “the girls in my project had to tell the health and social care teacher what FGM was”.

Sad girl

That teacher is not alone in being ignorant of the cultural practice of genitally mutilating young girls, or the physical and mental health disaster – sometimes even death – that can result from it. It’s reportedly practised in 48 African countries, as well as in the Middle East and Far East, and it’s estimated that 24,000 girls – mostly of primary age – are at risk of FGM in this country. Indications are that it is becoming more widespread in the UK as a result of immigration from countries where the practice is prevalent.

But teachers’ ignorance could result in schools failing the safeguarding element of an Ofsted inspection, as the regulatory body has included a section on FGM in their ‘Inspecting Safeguarding’ briefing, issued in January. Given that a recent NSPCC survey of 1,000 teachers demonstrated a shocking lack of knowledge of FGM, it may well be that when Ofsted inspectors ask about how their school deals with the issues it raises, senior leadership teams struggle to answer.


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Nada’s Escape From Forced Marriage Highlights Child Marriage Epidemic

Nada Al-Ahdal must be one of the bravest people alive today. This 11-year-old Yemeni girl managed to escape the fate that befalls so many girls of her age: a forced marriage.

Her story is harrowing. Nada, one of eight children, lived with her uncle in Saudi Arabia since she was three. According to Nada, her uncle, Abdel Salam al-Ahdal, was the only thing standing between her and life as a child bride.

Nada’s Escape From Forced Marriage Highlights Child Marriage Epidemic

Abdel Salam told NOW:

“When I heard about the groom, I panicked. Nada was not even 11 years old; she was exactly 10 years and 3 months. I could not allow her to be married off and have her future destroyed, especially since her aunt was forced to marry at 13 and burnt herself. I did all I could to prevent that marriage. I called the groom and told him Nada was no good for him. I told him she did not wear the veil and he asked if things were going to remain like that. I said ‘yes, and I agree because she chose it.’ I also told him that she liked singing and asked if he would remain engaged to her.”

According to NOW, the groom then ended the engagement. When he told Nada’s parents that he did not want to marry their daughter anymore, they were disappointed since they would no longer receive the bride price.

Despite her tender age, Nada is no stranger to arranged marriages. Her 18-year-old sister has been engaged several times, and her maternal aunt committed suicide by self-immolation after being forced to marry an abusive man. Even though Nada made her preferences very, very clear, her parents tried to marry her off again. That’s when Nada made this haunting video.

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Tougher penalties announced against forced marriage

The Ministry of Justice has introduced tougher penalties for those who break Forced Marriage Protection Orders (FMPO). It is now a criminal offence to breach a FMPO punishable by up to five years in prison.

Forced marriage is a marriage in which one or both individuals do not (or cannot) consent to marriage, but are forced into it. Being forced can include: physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure.

Victims of forced marriage can be both women and men, and the marriages may take place in the UK or overseas. Previously there was no specific offence of forcing someone to marry – however someone could be prosecuted for criminal offences involved in forcing someone to marry such as kidnap, false imprisonment, assault, child abduction, harassment, etc. The FMPO use civil law to protect someone at risk of being forced into a marriage. A FMPO puts in place restrictions for example: not to threaten or use force against the person concerned; to not take a person’s passport or other travel document; and not to arrange the engagement or marriage of the person protected by the FMPO. A new offence of breaching a FMPO has been introduced with a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, a fine or both on indictment (serious crime) and six months imprisonment, a fine or both on summary (lower level).

A new offence of forced marriage has also been introduced with a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment, a fine or both on indictment (more serious) and six months imprisonment, a fine or both, on summary (lower level).

The new measures are being brought in by the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing (ASBCP) Bill, which was introduced on 9th May 2013 and includes measures to make both forced marriage and the breach of an FMPO a criminal offence.


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Forced Marriages – do you know where you stand?

There are many instances where a marriage can be voidable (set aside) or ‘void’ where the marriage is treated as though it has never taken place. Examples include non-consummation of marriage, due to either inability or wilful refusal. There are other reasons relating to unawareness that the bride is already pregnant or that one party has a serious STD. More commonly, these days, it may be that one of the parties may not have the legal capacity to consent to the union or may be entering it under duress or have suffered undue influence.

The latter appears to relate to the recent case highlighted in the Daily Mail involving a sixteen year old girl who had the protection of a Court Order which banned the arrangement of her marriage. The Order was backed by a Power of Arrest. It is alleged that, in spite of the Court Order, the girl was forced to marry a man she had met only once under a threat from her father to kill her (which would apparently be explained as suicide) if she refused to comply. She is reported to have turned up at a local police station in her pyjamas on her wedding night in a distressed state.

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is raising awareness about forced marriages across the public sector to professionals and lay clients alike. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 16(2)). FMU goes on to say that No marriage shall be legally entered into without the full and free consent of both parties and a woman’s right to choose a spouse and enter freely into marriage that is central to her life and dignity and equality as a human being (Recommendation 21 Comment Article 16 (1) (b) UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women).

This unfortunate 16 year old lady is due to appear in Court where, presumably, the persons alleged to have threatened her and organised the marriage despite the Court orders and powers of arrest will have to account for their actions. Duress includes actions perpetrated against a victim for physical, psychological, sexual, financial or emotional reasons and such pressure tends to be consistent and wholly unacceptable. In 2008 over 1,600 cases in the UK were reported involving South Asian and other families. It is important to remember that many go unreported. This often starts when the victim is quite young when during school there are often prolonged absences that are not properly explained, requests for extended leave, with the victim showing anxiety as the school holidays and breaks come nearer. Often they are not allowed to join after-school activities or forge a friendship with other children or their families. This can result in self-harm, feelings of depression and isolation and can result in unreasonable restrictions at home. Incidents as being beaten by a parent for ‘looking at a boy’ can often result in confiscation of a mobile phone and being forced to go back to the originating country often to meet the prospective ‘husband’.


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