My Daughter, My Property

The on-going trial of the alleged honour killing of Shafilea Ahmed and evidence given by her younger sister is a chilling reminder of what can happen to girls and women in the name of culture or religion, particularly those from a South Asian background.

Demonstrating the utterly shocking nature of this ‘cultural’ practice, the UK Forced Marriages Unit dealt with a case involving a girl who was only five years old and another of a woman who was eighty-seven!  The British Forced Marriage Unit is a joint initiative between the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Home Office.  There has been much debate about whether forced marriages should be criminalised and I am unsure of the current legal status but I think it certainly should be criminalised.

There is the fear that criminalising forced marriage would drive it deeper underground but how much further underground could it go?  The case highlighted above were reported before criminalisation.  Community caseworkers talk of hurting the feelings of/ causing embarrassment to particular community groups…who cares?  Why should we tread on egg shells to appease disgusting behaviour and the abuse of women?

I remember when Childline was launched – we all knew the number and we all knew it existed to protect us, sometimes even from our parents.   I think if children are taught from an early age that forced marriage is wrong (perhaps Childline should join the Forced Marriage Unit) and a criminal act they will at least know they can call for help or a sibling/friend can make the call for them.  Kids know their rights, just ask a teacher!

Perhaps Childline should be re-named as teenagers might be less inclined to call thinking it is not for their age group.  If you know someone who may need help call 0207 008 0151 for the Forced Marriage Unit.


(P.S. I’m sure we all have comedy stories of actually threatening our parents with Childline when asked to tidy up and so on.  My mum: Here’s the phone, go ahead!!)

P.P.S. From the Foreign Commonwealth Office website:

Our Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is a joint-initiative with the Home Office. In 2011 there were 1468 instances where the FMU gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage. There were 66 instances involving those with disabilities (56 with learning disabilities, 8 with physical disabilities and 2 with both), and 10 instances involving victims who identified themselves as LGBT. Of the 1468 instances, 78 per cent were female and 22 per cent male.


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