A small step forward. If authorities enforce penalties properly and aren’t deterred from pursuing cases for fear of “alienating” or allegedly “radicalizing” Muslim populations, that will be another step forward. British law aims at preventing forced marriage,” by Jennifer Quinn for the Associated Press, November 25:
LONDON — (AP) “” A British law went into effect Tuesday that allows courts to prevent someone from being forced into marriage “” a move that comes as governments across Europe confront immigrant practices that sometimes clash with more liberal values.
The right to resist a forced marriage is more than simply a “more liberal value.” But there is more politically correct understatement later in the article.
In the first nine months of 2008, the Forced Marriage Unit “” part of Britain’s Foreign Office “” handled more than 1,300 cases in which there were concerns someone was about to be forced into marriage, or already had been.
Nearly 85 percent of the cases had female victims, and the majority involved families of Pakistani, Indian, and Bangladeshi descent, the unit said. About half involved minors.
The Forced Marriage Act gives British courts the power to issue protection orders that can stop intimidation or violence, prevent someone from having to go abroad, and compel someone to reveal the whereabouts of a person believed to be at risk.
The act allows the victim, a friend, or an agency working with the person at risk “” like the police, social services or organizers of a women’s refuge “” to apply for a protection order. Anyone who violates such an order can be jailed for two years.
A curious detail:
It is not a crime in Britain to force someone into marriage. But the practice often includes offenses such as abuse, assault, rape and kidnapping.
Women who had been forced into marriage “” or who had escaped a forced marriage “” were consulted on the act before it became law, said Shaminder Ubhi, the director of London’s Ashiana Project.
“You want to be able to say to the community that this won’t be tolerated, that if you are a perpetrator, you will be held accountable,” Ubhi said.
The effort to curb forced marriage is part of a wider debate across Europe over the proper balance between accepting diversity and demanding that immigrants accept the values of their new country. France, with a secular tradition, set of a furious debate in 2004 by banning Muslim headscarves and other religious symbols from schools.
The issue of forced marriage is in quite a different league from other “traditions,” but that sets up a handy litmus test: If it’s a crime and/or an institutionalized violation of human rights, it isn’t “diversity.”