24/11/2011 Newsnight Scotland


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can't know where public opinion will end up.


On Newsnight Scotland: Around 40 couples are forced to marry against


their will every year and those are just the ones we know about. From


Monday, new laws come into force to outlaw the practice. How will they


work, and will they make any difference?


Good evening. It's almost impossible to get a truly accurate


picture of how widespread forced marriages are in Scotland, with


those involved often too scared to come forward. The new law's


ambitious aim is to stamp it out altogether, with the threat of a


two-year prison sentence or heavy fine for anyone breaching new


protection orders. Julie Peacock has been speaking to one woman who


managed to escape being made to marry against her will. She still


fears for her safety, so we agreed It's supposed to be one of the


happiest days of your life, but it isn't like this for everyone. Some


people are coerced, threatened and forced into marriage. Often with


someone they barely know. The numbers are small, approximately 40


cases a year in Scotland. This woman was almost one of that number.


It began as a family holiday to India but one evening she realised


a family party was actually to celebrate her engagement. It wasn't


until we got to this guy's house and we sat down and I realised that


I had been set up. I wasn't going out for dinner. It was dinner, but


it was dinner with this guy who I was getting engaged to. I said,


"I'm not happy with this." Mum said, "Everyone's here, everyone's


watching, you have to do this. As your dad says." I don't think I had


it in me to embarrass my parents or anything. So I just, I went ahead


with it at the time but I was so - I think I was embarrassed. I


thought, "I was supposed to be happy and I'm not." I couldn't


bring myself to look at the guy. She told me she knew they weren't


compatible but refusing wasn't an option. I thought to myself, "How


will I get him to change his mind?" I made out I was a slut or


something, I said to him, "I sleep around, I drink alcohol all the


time. I'm getting raped every night." That was not me. It didn't


work. He wasn't caring. He said to me, "Look, I admire you for being


honest with you." I thought, "What have I done?" It didn't work for me.


I didn't see it as being forced at all. My mum said to me, "Do it for


me, do it for your dad, do it for family." I thought, it was me doing


the right thing. I didn't realise I was being forced. Her only option


was to agree to the marriage as a way of getting out of the situation.


So the only way to put it off was to say, "We will get married next


year." That was my way of getting back to the UK. If I said, "It is


not happening whatsoever, they would force me right into it and


get the marriage done there and then." It was only when she got


back to Glasgow that she felt safe to call it off. I said to my mum,


"Look, it is not happening, I'm not doing it, end of." After that,


every day there was an argument, there was total drama and I was


crying all the time. They said, "You are a disgrace, people are


saying if we had a daughter like you, they would cut you up and


throw you away." I said, "Why don't you?" Over the next few months, the


pressure from the family increased. Everywhere I was going, I had


people following me. My mum and dad would turn up at my work to check


on me. I had my mobile and laptop taken off me. I had no contact with


my friends. My life was in my bedroom and that was it. I would go


to my room and they would have dinner, I was a disgrace, I brought


shame on them. Most of the reported cases of forced marriages in


Scotland were Muslim. Why are we going ahead with it? It is against


Islam to force anyone to marry. We have all got rights. Our religion


gives us rights. She was lucky. Her parents accepted her decision and


they are now rebuilding their relationship. She welcomes the new


law but says it needs to be backed up with education. It probably


still would have happened if the law had been in place, my parents


would have still done the same thing, even if it was against the


law to force me. They don't understand. Even to this day, they


still don't see it as forced marriage. They still see it as an


arranged marriage. I think there is a lot to be done to tell the


parents they can do that. It is great that they have put this law


in place. They need to explain exactly what forced is.


MacKenzie could see parents facing a two-year -- the new law could see


parents facing a two-year jail term. I know I wouldn't. I had a very


close relationship with my mum and dad growing up. It is something I


would never do unless my family was in complete danger and that's when


I would approach the police. law comes into force on Monday. But


there are many who believe it is only the starting point to making


all weddings happy occasions. Joining me now from Edinburgh is


Mohammed Akram, the President of the Council of British Pakistanis,


and Mridul Wadhwa from Shakti Women's Aid. And here in Glasgow is


Smina Akhtar, the director of the charity, Amina, the Muslim Women's


Resource Centre. Can we begin with you, first? One of the questions


which the woman in that film asked there was when this new law comes


in, what would be useful is to explain what the law means by


"forced". Give us an indication what that word means? The actual


legislation does explain very well what is meant by "forced". Force is


coercion, threats, parents saying, "We are going to disown you" or,


"I'm going to kill myself if you don't do this." So it is mental as


well as physical? Psychological, physical, also trying to force


somebody who is not able to consent, somebody who may be has learning


difficulties, mental health problems, or somebody who is under


age where it becomes child abuse as well as well as a forced marriage.


So force is well explained but the issue is it needs to be explained


to the community because I would agree with the young woman who


spoke there on the film that I don't think that people in the


community know what is meant by "force" in the legislation. Because


they might be forgiven for thinking we would like our young son or


daughter to get married, we believe we have found an appropriate person


for them to have a relationship with, and in any family environment


that might lead to pressure. But it is knowing when those pressures


have broken the law. That is going to be difficult? It is going to be


a difficult law to implement but I think it can work if it is used


alongside other processes like mediation, services, advocacy


services where we can work with agencies like ourselves in Shakti,


can work with potential victims and as the young woman said, she would


never have actually gone to the police. That is something that we


will experience. It's - I believe that it is only when it is a matter


of life and death that people will - it is - the law will be the last


resort. It can probably be used as a threat. Let's pick up on that


point with Mridul Wadhura. Give us an indication of the scale of this


problem in Scotland. It is difficult to come up with exact


figures. Some estimates are 40. How accurate is that? I think those are


the sort of reported cases of people who come forward asking for


help. The problem is probably bigger. As the case study showed,


or the woman's story shows, it's very difficult for women to come


forward and for us to identify what they have experienced is a forced


marriage. But I think the law is for those people who do come


forward. Each year, we have women, usually in the single digits,


coming forward, saying, "I am experienced forced marriage and I


need some help." The problem is underreported. Not fully


understood... What point when they have come to an agency like


yourself, are they at the point where the marriage is about to take


place, where there is physical abuse? At what stage are they by


the point they need that kind of help? There are different


situations. Usually they come asking for help when they have


exhausted all other avenues of resolving this issue within the


family. There isn't always physical violence. But they will ask for


help from agencies and outsiders when they feel that their point of


view is not being heard so they want to take assistance or advice


from somebody like Shakti. It varies but usually after they have


exhausted speaking to the family, or friends, or people that they


know. Mohammed Akram, give us your view on the potential scale of this


problem in Scotland? The scale is fairly well similar to what the


previous two speakers and your report indicated. It is important


to note that our research published in 2004 showed that 38% of the


victims were male, so it's both applies to men and women. I think


it may be helpful to the listeners to make a distinction between an


arranged marriage because we don't want to condemn arranged marriages


which is a marriage which takes place arranged by the parents but


with the consent of the two, of the both parties involved, where come


pattability and social background - - compatability and social


background is a big factor. My marriage was arranged 38 years ago


and it is happily going along despite the cold weather in


Scotland! LAUGHTER And my children who were born in this country are


working in the mainstream. Their marriages were arranged in this


country. They were initiated by us, but with their full consent. They


are all three happily married. you explain to us then, explain to


those who don't understand, how it can culturally be possible that you


would have these forced marriages? It is because there are loyalties


abroad, people trying to maintain links with the country of origin,


in my view erroneously. They fail to see the compatability factor of


somebody born and brought up in this country, which is the case,


marrying somebody from abroad, doesn't matter what the best


intention is for your child. It doesn't work. What needs to happen,


I think, both the previous two speakers and also the film shows


that you need to bring in a broad programme of education, of the


communities concerned. Can I pick up on that point with Smina Akhtar?


Is there a generational point here, which is if you want to maintain


those links with abroad, is there a difference between those who were


born abroad and then live here and wanting to maintain those links,


are they more likely to be responsible for forced marriages


compared to those who have spent their entire lives in Scotland?


don't think you can make that distinction. I mean, what you have


to remember is there are many marriages that are arranged between


people living in Scotland and between those living abroad. They


are not forced marriages. wondering on that point of


education, which is something all the speakers have mentioned, if you


need to educate the parents, where is this going to come from? We have


to educate the parents. As the young woman said... Where is that


attitude coming from, that forced marriages might be acceptable?


Often parents don't understand what "force" is. Go on, you know it is


good for the family. That starts, that is the beginning of force.


It's when that continues and gets worse and gets worse and when a


young person says, "No, I don't want to do that" and it is ignored,


that becomes force. We have spoken to many, many women in Scotland


from various different generations, young generations, older, who are


grandparents as well. They all say no, we would never ever force our


children, our grandchildren to marry against their will. I still


believe that they still don't understand what force means, what


the legislation defines. Mridul Wadhura, can you explain to people


because the case study in the film made this point which is the


importance it seems that shame plays in this. Explain to people


why that is such a powerful element in this? I think because often and


more so for women who we work with they are expected to behave in a


certain way and listening to your parents, or agreeing with the


decisions they are making for you, is vital and anything that moves


away from that, that is not fitting into their understanding of how a


daughter or a son should behave and seeking help from outsiders can be


considered shameful. So it is quite complex this concept of shame. In


the context of women in particular, if they don't agree and follow the


norms of the traditions of their family, or the culture that they


come from, and if they openly challenge it, and usually it means


going outside or using the law, going to the police, or involving


agencies that the family doesn't want them to involve can be


considered shameful as well. Therefore, is the solution that


more people ought to challenge it then? I think, yes, I think - I


agree with the other speakers. There needs to be greater


discussion on the differences between forced and arranged


marriages, not just within the communities, but I think people


outside of the communities where forced marriages happen should also


know that arranged marriages are good things and they are distinct


from forced marriages and yes, education is required but we also


need to look at gender empowerment as well. Unless we consider women


to be more equal, and take away this burden of shame that women


carry, it's not going to work. Mohammed Akram, do you think the


law will be effective? If you are talking about something which is as


important to families as marriage, then they are not going to consider


whether it is illegal or not, are they? They will think this is the


right thing, we believe this is the correct thing to do? I think the


law will be fairly ineffective. Fairly cumbersome to implement for


two reasons: First, it takes the easy option out to a very complex


problem. It gives the Government a "feel-good factor". But having said


that, there are a number of provisions in the law which would


be helpful, for example other areas of law concerning children. I think


the Court of Session has been fairly progressive in nullifying


the marriages which they have considered to be deemed to be


forced marriages in the past. The other thing which the - which would


be erroneous assumption to make would be that this is primarily a


domestic abuse issue. It goes much deeper than that. And therefore the


Government really needs to follow policies in line with the


legislation to basically carry out a broad programme for education. We


as representatives of various organisations shall say loud and


clear that this practice is unacceptable, it doesn't fit in


with ideology, it is outdated and people should grow up and get out


of this practice. Smina Akhtar, the courts saying a marriage is


annulled is one thing, but for religious reasons it might be the


case that the family will ignore that? How big a problem do you


think that is? I think it can be a problem because a marriage -


especially with Islamic marriages, with Muslim marriages, if a mairnl


is annulled in a court, it needs to be -- if a marriage is annulled in


a court, it needs to be annulled Islamically as well. In relation to


the point about educating parents, and families, it is very important


that we also empower young people... Education, all of you seem to be


saying education is a far more important element than the change


in the law? If people are going to come forward and say, "We are in


the process of being forced into marriage" or, "We have been forced


into marriage" then there are a number of support services out


there which can help if they do not want to go to court. If they do not


want to go to the police, to mediate. That law comes into force


on Monday. Thank you all very much indeed for joining us this evening.


A quick look at tomorrow's front- pages. Police probe hospital


patient privacy breach and society will have to suffer from Neets. The


Guardian, revenge of the middle manager. That is all from us.


It's a pretty wild night out there. Heavy rain and strong winds


sweeping down across the country. It will be chilly and the showers


across the north will be wintry. Further south, relatively few


showers. One or two getting down through the Midlands. Temperatures


will be up into double figures across southern areas. Lots of dry


weather across Southern England. A few showers getting down into


south-western parts of England by the end of the afternoon. They will


have moved through Wales with sunshine returning afterwards. 10


degrees in Aberystwyth so quite fresh, I would imagine. Positively


chilly further north. For Northern Ireland, sixes and seven also be


typical. A fairly wintry -- sevens will be typical. A fairly wintry


scene across the far north of Scotland. Now, across northern


parts of the UK, it stays disturbed as we go into the weekend. The rain


clouds gathering again. Further south, it will be drier, the winds


won't be so strong and generally it won't be a bad weekend. Plenty of


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