Muslim Women’s Network UK Welcomes Criminalising Forced Marriage
15 June 2014
Muslim Women's Network UK Welcomes Criminalising Forced Marriage
The Muslim Women's Network UK (MWNUK) welcomes new laws criminalising Forced Marriage which will come into effect on 16 June 2014.
MWNUK and its members have decades of experience of dealing with forced marriage cases. While there has been a steady shift in accepting its practice as wrong, many victims often realise this too late. Through working in schools, MWNUK has found that many young people confuse the difference between an arranged marriage (where both bride and groom have the free will to say no to the suggested marriage) and a forced marriage (where there is no freedom of choice). The situation is conflated by pressure from family members which when taken in good faith are understood as 'my duty as a daughter/son', and not emotional blackmail.
One victim said:
"Being in a situation where you have those you trust manipulating you to do something against your wishes is awful. You don't want to upset them, and they try lots of emotional ways to get you to agree. It's so hard to even see what's happening when you're in the middle of it. Their decisions ruined my life for a long while."
Some victims are further threatened with saying no to the marriage akin to disobeying religious teachings. However, a Forced marriage can never be justified on religious grounds.
We have also seen cases where this lack of awareness has meant that some victims taken abroad under the guise of a 'holiday' find themselves back in Britain married to an individual they may have just met and are now responsible for bringing to the UK. Even at this stage, they do not realise it is not too late and that support is available to them. In 2013 alone the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1302 cases.
Faeeza Vaid, Executive Director of Muslim Women's Network UK comments:
"The impact of being forced into marriage can be devastating for its victims. In agreement with Universal Human Rights, I believe that Forced marriages are unacceptable and illegal in Islam. And so the introduction of these criminal laws is not about scapegoating parents, individuals or communities, they are about standing firm for justice.
We need to continue raising awareness of this issue; to communities, to public service frontline workers, to policy influencers etc. These laws will only be effective if we put resources behind facilitating raising awareness and working together in a culturally appropriate and common sense manner. And we need to encourage victims not to suffer in silence. It is my personal hope that this law will act as a deterrent to those who think this abhorrent crime is acceptable."
In response to the enquires MWNUK has received, MWNUK have previously raised concerns about this abuse and provided recommendations to Government consultations, we have run training workshops and events, and produced information factsheets  to raise awareness of this issue.
Thereby we believe that the new laws provide another option of protection for victims who can already go through a civil remedy of obtaining a Forced Marriage Protection Order through the family courts. The criminal laws may be found in the "Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill' which criminalises forcing someone to marry, and provides a maximum penalty of seven years for committing a forced marriage offence. The 'Breaching a Forced Marriage Protection Order' provides a maximum penalty of five years for breach of a forced marriage protection order.
There are many organisations available to support those at risk of entering a forced marriage, or those already in a forced marriage.  The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is the main body between the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) who provide advice and support on forced marriage cases. Their website (www.fco.gov.uk/forced-marriage )has useful information and resources. They may be contacted on 0207 0080151. MWNUK can also be contacted on 0121 236 9000 / 07415 206936. In an emergency dial 999.
 MWNUK Forced Marriage Factsheet - http://mwnuk.co.uk/Forced_Marriage_7_factsheets.php
 Some support organisations:
Honour Network - This is a project run by Karma Nirvana. It supports both male and female victims of forced marriage and honour based violence.
Website: www.karmanirvana.org.uk/honour-network Helpline: 0800 5999 247
Forced Marriage.Net - This is a one stop website providing practical information and sources of advice. Website: www.forcedmarriage.net Forward - This is service is dedicated to advancing and safeguarding the health and rights of African girls and woman, in particular female genital mutilation and child marriage.
Website: www.forwarduk.org.uk Telephone: 0208 860 4000
Jan Trust- Offers a free and confidential helpline (0800 141 2994) to support victims who are in fear of going into a forced marriage or are already in one. Helpline staff provide culturally sensitive advice in Urdu, Punjabi and English.
Websites: www.jantrust.org / www.againstforcedmarriage.org
Amina - Muslim Women's Helpline - Based in Scotland.
Website: www.mwrc.org.uk Telephone: 0808 801 0301 (Mon-Fri 9.30am-5pm)
Practical Solutions - Ministry of Justice approved specialist forced marriage advisors and practitioners based in the north West, working with victims/potential victims, communities and service providers. Practical Solutions work nationally and internationally.
Website: www.practical-solutions.info Telephone: 0844 879 3129 / 07791 90497
NSPCC Child Protection Helpline - This is a free 24 hour helpline provides information, advice, and counseling to anyone concerned about a child at risk of abuse.
Website: www.nspcc.org.uk Telephone: 0808 800 5000
Notes to editors
The Muslim Women's Network UK is the only national Muslim women's organisation in Britain. It is an independent network of women across the UK that shares knowledge, connects the voices, and promotes the needs of diverse Muslim women. Further information on the network can be found at: www.mwnuk.co.uk
1.Media spokespeople from Muslim Women's Network UK are:
Faeeza Vaid, MWNUK Executive Director (07535 703567 / firstname.lastname@example.org )
Shaista Gohir MBE, MWNUK Chair (07802 225989 / email@example.com)
Mussurut Zia, MWNUK General Secretary (0796 765 5063 /firstname.lastname@example.org )
Jess Phillips MP
MWNUK is courageous because of the uncompromising and fearless positions it sometimes takes when calling out injustice and inequality
I am proud to support and champion this fantastic organisation, which is informing policy and transforming lives.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi
MWNUK’s authenticity comes from knowledge of lived experiences of Muslim women and girls acquired through their helpline, research and members.
Naz Shah MP
They work tirelessly with passion and commitment to make a difference and improve outcomes for some of the most vulnerable women and girls in society.
Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimiu
Lawyer, Political & Women's Rights Activist
There is no greater time than now for the voices, representation and power of Muslim women to be visible in the feminist movement and all walks of life. MWNUK is a vital force in delivering this much needed balance and representation.