24/11/2011 Newsnight Scotland


24/11/2011

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can't know where public opinion will end up.

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

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

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

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work, and will they make any difference?

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

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picture of how widespread forced marriages are in Scotland, with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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they are now rebuilding their relationship. She welcomes the new

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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all weddings happy occasions. Joining me now from Edinburgh is

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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difficulties, mental health problems, or somebody who is under

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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alongside other processes like mediation, services, advocacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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situations. Usually they come asking for help when they have

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exhausted all other avenues of resolving this issue within the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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previous two speakers and your report indicated. It is important

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

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

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

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

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

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

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pattability and social background - - compatability and social

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

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and it is happily going along despite the cold weather in

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

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working in the mainstream. Their marriages were arranged in this

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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are they more likely to be responsible for forced marriages

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

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

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to remember is there are many marriages that are arranged between

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people living in Scotland and between those living abroad. They

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are not forced marriages. wondering on that point of

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

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

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

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attitude coming from, that forced marriages might be acceptable?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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considered shameful as well. Therefore, is the solution that

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

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agree with the other speakers. There needs to be greater

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discussion on the differences between forced and arranged

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

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outside of the communities where forced marriages happen should also

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know that arranged marriages are good things and they are distinct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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law will be fairly ineffective. Fairly cumbersome to implement for

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

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

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

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

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the Court of Session has been fairly progressive in nullifying

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the marriages which they have considered to be deemed to be

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

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

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

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Government really needs to follow policies in line with the

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

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as representatives of various organisations shall say loud and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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saying education is a far more important element than the change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:19:40.:19:50.
:19:50.:19:58.

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

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

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

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

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

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weather across Southern England. A few showers getting down into

:20:19.:20:22.

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

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have moved through Wales with sunshine returning afterwards. 10

:20:27.:20:32.

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

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

:20:37.:20:43.

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

:20:43.:20:46.

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

:20:46.:20:52.

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

:20:52.:20:57.

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

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

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