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Diana calls for EU-wide action against forced marriages

June 29, 2011 1:17 PM
Originally published by Diana Wallis

A courageous activist who escaped a marriage to a man she never previously met has brought her fight against forced marriages to the European Parliament.

In a hearing in conjunction with the European Foundation for Democracy on the 'Criminalisation of Forced Marriages?', Jasvinder Sanghera, a survivor of a forced marriage herself and published author and activist on the issue, will speak about her experience in setting up the UK's first national helpline for victims of forced marriages and her fight against this practice.

Speaking ahead of the hearing, Ms Sanghera, CEO of the Leeds-based organisation Nirvana Karma which receives over 500 calls a month for support, said:

"There are thousands of cases reported but still very few prosecutions. This speaks volumes about how perpetrators are getting a way with this heinous crime.

"TheUKgovernment rescues around 400 British subjects every year and brings them back into theUK- 15% of which are men and one third of which are under the age of 17. This is a real issue that impacts on children and young people. I would be delighted to see greater EU cooperation on this issue."

Diana, who co-hosted the event, added:

"Forced marriage is an EU-wide issue and I think we need to start looking at EU-wide solutions. This hearing is a starting point but I think there is a need to bring together all the excellent work done in individual countries. For example, I would like to see funding for a network of victims' associations and perhaps funding for an EU safe haven for victims of forced marriage".

The issue of forced marriages is one which affects many EU countries and is generallyan issue within communities of immigrants from Asia and theMiddle East. In most, but not all forced marriages, it is the female who is the involuntary spouse.

Although forced marriage is against the law throughout the EU, its exact definition varies. The lack of a generally accepted definition has hindered efforts to establish data on the numbers of forced marriages in the EU. In 2006, theUKscrapped an earlier plan to criminalise forced marriage. Inter alia, it feared that victims might be more reluctant to come forward if family members faced prosecution. However a 2011 UK Parliament report has backed criminal legislation. In 2011 forced marriage became a criminal offence inScotland.

Belgium,Germany,Austria,CyprusandMaltahave criminalised the offence.


The hearing on 'Criminalisation of Forced Marriages?' - 'Discussion on the next steps for action at EU level' is held in the European Parliament inBrusselstoday. It will be preceded by a screening of the 2010 BBC documentary 'Shame Travels'.

Pic shows Jasvinder Sanghera presenting Diana with a copy of her book 'Shame Travels' which is based on the BBC documentary of the same name.