A welcome move, but note the resistance from the Home Office minister with the beyond-parody name. “Tory Muslim peer says forced marriages should be made a crime ‘like domestic violence’,” from the Daily Mail:
Forced marriages should be made a crime to send out a clear signal that it is “intolerable”, a Tory Muslim peer said yesterday.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, shadow minister for community cohesion and social action, dismissed arguments against making forced marriages a crime, saying that they were the same that were used against banning domestic violence.
But she told peers: “We did make domestic violence a crime and we put down a benchmark that this is intolerable.
“Is it not now time to make forced marriages a criminal offence to say very clearly that this will not be tolerated and people will be prosecuted for committing this offence?”
Home Office minister Lord West of Spithead replied: “The difficulty is
that these things happen in families. We have taken a lot of advice and talked to many
“There is a feeling that the crime would go even further underground because people generally do not want to put their families through this.
It’s rather “underground” anyway. Shouldn’t the government go on record as saying forced marriages will not be tolerated, and prosecute those who are caught?
“It is a very interesting debate and interesting issue and clearly we will have
to consider it further and go into more dialogue on it.”
He said that “because it was made a crime”, the cases of domestic violence dropped from 814,000 in 1997 to 407,000 in 2006-07.
On the subject of “honour” violence, the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali asked: “Can you assure us that there is effective policing in all areas of the UK so that women exposed to violence are adequately protected?”
Lord West replied: “At times there has been nervousness that this might step
across cultural or religious divides but there are no cultures or religions that condone so-called honour-based violence.”
If it’s unacceptable in British society, what does it matter if condemning it “steps across” those divides?
Aside from that, Lord West’s claim is obviously ridiculous. The premium that Islamic teaching places on a woman’s chastity as the benchmark for her value, honor, and her family’s reputation, coupled with the precedent set by Qur’an 4:34 for violence against women combine with consequences we frequently read about in places from Jordan to Texas.