Racism fear thwarts forced marriage prosecutions

family law

The fear of being labelled ‘racist’ has caused many police forces to be wary of prosecuting forced marriage, campaigners claim.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) received just 56 cases of forced marriage for prosecution in 2016-17, which represents a 37 per cent drop from the previous year. In 2015-16, investigators sent 90 cases to the CPS.

Anti-forced marriage charity Karma Nirvana has said they’re worried by such a significant fall in prosecutions. Founder Jasvinder Sanghera ran away from home as a teenager in order to escape a forced marriage. This experience inspired her to start the charity so she could help people in similar circumstances. She said she was “absolutely horrified” to learn of the drop in prosecutions.

The decrease in cases referred to the CPS was “sending the wrong message to victims and perpetrators” alike, she claimed. Evidence suggests that “police and other professionals charged with safeguarding against forced marriage fear treading on cultural toes, rocking the boat and, worse, being branded racist”. However, this overly cautious approach can have “devastating” consequences for the victims, she warned.

Speaking to the Independent, one civil servant who works with the organisation’s school outreach programme said she had “first-hand experience” of forced marriage and realised that “local authorities are fearful of community leaders in case they get labelled as racist”. The woman, who was not named by the newspaper, called for mandatory training on how to combat the practice for public servants whose job it is to keep people safe.

In July, the NSPCC reported that they had received a record number of calls from young people afraid of being forced to marry over the previous year. Chief Executive Peter Wanless called the practice “a crime and an abuse of human rights” regardless of what “cultural expectations” are placed on someone.

Photo by Victor via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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1 comment

Henrietta Coker - October 12, 2017 at 3:22pm

Each community is entitled to it’s own take on family life. This is diversity. However when culture infringes on the human rights of individual or is an aspect of cultural practice that is abusive to children, What UNICEF would term “a harmful cultural practice” then clearly the police are duty bound to act. This is especially true when they have clear legislation to back them up. The police need training.

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