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Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Office’

Official data on forced marriages in UK may hide true scale of abuse

Figures showing that 1,220 possible cases of forced marriage in Britain were reported to the authorities last year may not reflect the full scale of abuse, the Home Office has said.

The official figures show that the number of cases reported to the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) via its public helpline or email fell by 3%, or 47 cases, in 2015, continuing the downward trend of the last six years.

The unit, a joint Home and Foreign Office operation, received 350 calls a month and offered help or support in 1,220 cases. Some of the 350 were repeat calls about cases, or were about other issues, including divorces, annulments and sham marriages.

Almost 80% were from professionals, colleagues, friends or family, and only a small proportion from victims themselves.

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One in 10 forced marriages are in Yorkshire

ONE in ten reports of a suspected forced marriage in the UK come from concerned communities in Yorkshire and the Humber, new statistics show.

As a dangerous window of opportunity approaches for women and men to be taken abroad against their will during half term, the Government is today launching a video with the message that the ‘brutal’ practice will not be tolerated in the region.

Around 120 women and men living across Yorkshire and the Humber received help and support from the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) last year in what were potential cases of someone being married against their will.
Pakistan, India and Bangladesh were the most common countries involved in reports to the FMU, however nearly a quarter of cases were from people concerned about a marriage to someone in the UK.

Today the Foreign Office has launched a hard-hitting video showing forced marriage’s devastating impact on the victim and their family, and the criminal consequences of anyone’s involvement in the process.

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Petition to end FGM in US nears 200,000 signatures

petition that calls on the Obama administration to tackle the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the United States has been signed by nearly 200,000 people.

Jaha Dukureh, a victim of FGM who has spearheaded the petition, will be on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to meet  some of the more than 50 members of Congress who have lent their support to Dukureh’s petition, which calls on Barack Obama and the Department of Health and Human Services to commission research into the scale and severity of the problem in the US. Dukureh launched her campaign at the Guardian’s New York office last month with UN representative Nafissatou Diop, US congressman Joe Crowley and Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger.

Doctors treating women and girls with FGM say the research is badly needed. “We would know, we’d have a better sense of it nationally … The challenge that I’ve faced over my entire career has been that often times we do not have data,” said Dr Crista Johnson-Agbakwu, who treats women from 43 countries at the Refugee Women’s Health Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona, where a “staggering amount” of her patients have been cut.

FGM is a 5,000-year-old practice that takes place  across large parts of Africa, the Middle East and south-east Asia. While there are varying types of severity, it essentially involves the partial or entire removal of the external female genitalia. Type III FGM, the most severe, requires the girl to be sewn closed until her wedding night. While there are grassroots movements in some African countries to phase out the practice, many diaspora communities still require a girl to be cut.

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Police: WA man forced woman into wedding trip

BAKER CITY, Ore. — A Moses Lake, Wash., man has been accused of trying to force his girlfriend into a trip to Las Vegas to get married.

The trip ended last week at a truck stop in Baker City, Ore., when the woman got out of the car near the gasoline pumps, laid down and called for help.

The Baker City Herald reported Monday that her screams attracted attention, and someone called police.

Baker City Police Chief Wyn Lohner says 23-year-old Virginia Valdez told officers after the arrest Friday that her boyfriend threatened her with a knife, forcing her and their 22-month-old daughter to make the trip. The daughter was released with her mother.

Lohner says 22-year-old Thomas Martin Pfeiffer was charged with kidnapping, coercion and other crimes. His bail set at $155,500.




Nigeria: Women protest against forced marriage to deities

Women in southern Nigeria have been protesting against alleged ritual killings and “forced marriages” to traditional deities, it’s reported.

Such activities are believed to have cost 11 local women their lives in just two weeks, the Nigerian daily Punch reports. About 100 women rallied outside Enugu State government offices on 10 December, demanding an end to “the killing of women through fetish activities of chief priests and deities”. Wearing black dresses and holding palm leaves, the protesters also demanded a ban on “forced marriages” to traditional gods as this violates several articles of the Nigerian constitution. Among the reported incidents is the chief priest of the deity Iyakpala Ugbaike allegedly forcing the daughter of a deceased man to marry him after claiming the same deity killed her father, Punch says.

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Afghan landmark law failing to protect women: UN

Kabul — The UN mission in Afghanistan on Sunday criticised authorities for poor implementation of a landmark law to protect women, 12 years after the repressive Taliban regime was ousted from power.

Donor nations, led by the US, point to the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law as a prized symbol of the success of the international effort in Afghanistan since 2001. But a report released by the UN said that prosecutions and convictions remained low under the 2009 law, which criminalises child marriage, forced marriage, forced self-immolation, rape and other violence against women.

“Implementation has been slow and uneven, with police still reluctant to enforce the legal prohibition against violence,” Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said. “Afghan authorities need to do much more to build on the gains made so far in protecting women and girls.”

The report comes amid fears that as the NATO-led military mission prepares to withdraw by the end of next year, religious conservatives are seeking to increase their influence and undermine advances in women’s rights. The report said that of about 1,670 registered incidents of violence against women in 16 provinces, only 109 cases — seven percent — went through a judicial process using the EVAW law.

Many cases were resolved through informal mediation, which often fails to protect women from further violence, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said.

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Forced marriage and the “lawfully wedded” wife

Today, on the 32nd International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill reaches the Committee stage of the House of Lords. The Bill introduces a raft of measures covering matters as diverse as dangerous dogs, extradition proceedings, firearms and, tucked away in Part 10, forced marriage. Forced marriage is to be criminalised. “Was it not already?”, you may ask. The current law Forced marriage is where one or both parties to a marriage lack consent and duress is a factor. Forcing an individual to marry is a breach of Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights: the right to marry and found a family (a right which includes the requirement that parties to the marriage have given full consent). It has been the subject of legislation since the introduction of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007, which made a civil remedy available to victims.

This took the form of a Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO). Under the Act, victims of forced marriage and those facing forced marriage are able to apply for a FMPO. Relevant third parties, such as local authorities, are also able to apply for FMPOs and third parties not designated “relevant” can apply for the order with the permission of the court. A power of arrest can also be attached and the breach of a FMPO is treated as contempt of court. A FMPO made under this legislation is wide reaching and can apply to conduct both inside and outside England and Wales. How this will change The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill will criminalise the breach of these civil orders, as well as creating the specific offence of forcing someone to marry. Under the new legislation, breach of a FMPO will now carry a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.

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UK arranged marriages: Kidnapping, rape and murder in the name of family honour

“We have kidnappings, abductions, assaults, sexual offences. Anything that you can imagine could happen, does happen, in the name of honour,” says Nazir Afzal, Crown Prosecutor for the north-west of England.

And murder – 10 to 12 cases a year. Yet as the hyper-active, smartly dressed lawyer concedes in his Manchester office, violence invoked in the name of family honour, mostly by citizens of South Asian and Middle Eastern origin, is often hidden and unreported. Mr Afzal knows about honour, having grown up in Birmingham in a Pakistani Muslim household.

Honour, he says, can be a good thing, helping bind families and communities together. But, “at the moment in so many communities, in so many families, it is merely used to suppress women, to oppress women. So, if they misbehave in some way, or make their own choice, they have dishonoured the family. If men do the same, well it’s men – you know they do what they want. Regrettably too often it’s used to control women.”

After World War II, Britain received waves of migrants from its former colonies in India, Pakistan and later Bangladesh. Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and others came, some for higher education, but mostly to work in the factories around London and in the Midlands and north of England. In England, generations who self-identify as Asian now number more than 4 million, 8 per cent of the English population.

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Putting an end to forced marriage in Australia

According to Human Rights Watch, 14 million girls are married, worldwide, each year – with some as young as eight or nine. While early and forced marriage appears most prevalent in countries of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, several recent cases have shown Australia is not immune to the practise.

If the global trend continues, Human Rights Watch estimates that 142 million children will be married by 2020.

Snapshot of Australia

There is no Australian research on the prevalence of forced marriage but the issue was brought to the fore following several recent high-profile family court cases. A 2010 case involving a 13 year-old Victorian girl began when her school alerted the state’s child protection service that she was not attending school. The school suggested the girl’s absence may be due to her parents preparing her for marriage to a fiance they had chosen for her – a 17 year-old living overseas.

Consequently, the Department of Human Services initiated proceedings in the Family Court that eventually resulted in the court ordering the girl not be removed from Australia before she turned 18. The court also ordered that her passport be surrendered, that her parents be restrained from applying for another passport on her behalf and that her name be placed on the Australian Federal Police watchlist until her 18th birthday. The next year, another prominent case came before the family court. The girl (known as Ms Kreet) had just finished year 12 and had a boyfriend (known as “Mr U”) who lived in Australia. Ms Kreet’s parents told her she was to travel to their home country to marry Mr U there. But they deceived her and had another man in mind.

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