Forced Marriage in the UK: An Abuse of Human Rights
SBS calls for an end to serious human rights violations affecting children, girls and women’s rights
Support our 10 recommendations to the UK government as a step to eradicate forced marriage and honour based violence.
Southall Black Sisters (SBS) is a leading multi-awarding winning black and minority ethnic (BME) women’s organisation, founded in 1979. It provides holistic resource centre services to help BME women and children experiencing gender based violence, including domestic and sexual violence, forced marriage, dowry abuse and honour based violence (HBV) or honour crimes. We also campaign and conduct policy, educational, developmental and research work on violence against BME women and girls.
SBS has worked on forced marriage, incorporating child and early forced marriage (CEFM) for 35 years. It was an original member of the Home Office Working Group on Forced Marriage (1999), which was the first government body to investigate the issue in the UK. SBS also helped to introduce the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 and the statutory and practice multi-agency forced marriage guidelines. It has worked with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to develop its policies on forced marriage and HBV.
SBS welcome these positive developments. However, it is concerned, along with many other BME women’s organisations, that criminalisation of forced marriage, introduced in June 2014, would drive the problem underground. Many victims/survivors, while wanting protection from the criminal justice system, do not want to prosecute and get their parents and families ‘into trouble.’ In order to minimise these problems, and to improve responses to the problem of forced marriage, we have made a number of recommendations to the UK government listed below.
We Call For:
- More resources, legal aid and services to protect and support victims/survivors.
- Adequate and sustainable state funding for frontline BME women’s organisations to provide refuges/safe houses, information, advice, advocacy, support and counselling for victims/survivors- this includes a central government funding stream.
- Effective enforcement mechanisms and inspection of public agencies to ensure effective implementation of statutory forced marriage guidelines.
- Mandatory training programmes for public agencies, in consultation, and delivered in conjunction, with BME women’s organisations.
- More funding and support for prevention work within communities and with young people led by BME women’s organisations.
- Incorporation of forced marriage and other forms of violence against BME women and girls into the national curriculum and making Personal, Health and Social Education (PHSE) statutory within a ’whole school’ approach.
- Provision of adequate welfare benefits and reform of housing law so that interpretation of ’vulnerability’ by local authority housing departments include victims/survivors and couples escaping forced marriage.
- Reforms in immigration, asylum and no recourse to public funds policy and implementation to ensure victims/survivors are not entrapped in forced marriage or abusive relationships, face deportation or destitution or returned to gender related violence in their country of origin.
- BME Women’s groups are consulted on and involved in developing policy on violence against women and girls, including Forced marriage, and that their needs are fully integrated in these and other mainstream policies and initiatives.
- Implementation of human rights conventions and declarations, including Convention on the Rights of the Child, Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Istanbul Convention.
By adding your voice to this campaign, you will help safeguard young girls and women victims of forced marriage and honour-based violence.
Photograph: Copyright Shakila Taranum Maan