By Jennifer Matthys – With figures released by the Department of Education this week showing that at least 8,000 young girls, whom the authorities know about, and, more importantly, admit to, are each year forced against their will into marriage, it seems that slavery is still very much in existence in modern Britain.
The problem, of course, is that the vast majority of these children are of Muslim or Hindu backgrounds, meaning that our government, and the local authorities, are too scared to speak out in case they offend or cause upset to their multicultural dream.
Although the vast majority – 86% – of the children involved are girls, some as young as nine, there are enough reports of boys also being forced into marriage to give more cause for concern. If and when these children refuse the marriage, often to adults or family members from their original country of origin whom they have never met and who are often at least twice their age, they are forced into it by parents who refused to be ‘shamed’.
Those who do successfully escape the horror of a forced marriage are ostracised by their relatives forever, or, worse, become the victims of ‘honour’ crimes, including violence, sexual assault and murder.
How anyone can say that this is acceptable behaviour by a parent or family member is beyond any normal comprehension. To force a child, in the name of religion, and to be allowed by the authorities to do so as they turn a blind eye, is nothing other than slavery with a new name.
Although a lucky few of these children are able to inform on their families and use a special protection order to halt the marriage, those who contravene these orders face only a fine or a six-month prison sentence. There used to be much harsher punishments, but these were abolished by the Labour government in 2004 when they claimed that the punishments would be ‘resented as an intrusion into minority cultures and religions’. The Muslim Council of Britain complained that it would lead to the stigmatisation of immigrant communities.
Last year, the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit received just 1,735 pleas for help from these young victims. Is it any wonder when the punishment is so lacking, and the risk to the child, if caught, is so great? Is it any wonder that so many of them accept the situation as normal and follow through with the wishes of their parents?
We must be very clear: these forced marriages are both socially and morally wrong. What they amount to, if not modern-day slavery, is at the very least forced rape of a minor. At Conference this year, British National Party delegates passed with a majority the following motion to outlaw first cousin marriages:
In 2011 it is well known that first cousin marriages greatly increase the chances of having a child with serious learning or physical disabilities. In a modern Western society it is immoral and cruel to knowingly induce such a birth by way of a first cousin marriage. The cost to the taxpayer is also enormous.
Furthermore, first cousin marriages create an immigration ‘loophole’ which should be closed. Family reunification is one of the most common ways to immigrate into Europe today. This means that immigration laws in host countries have transformed immigrant youth into virtual human visas.
The availability of cousin marriages encourages marriages between immigrants and family members back in the home country in order to aid the extended family or to keep resources within the family.
It is time for the British people to be heard on this issue for moral, ethical and financial reasons. Therefore this Conference proposes that first cousin marriages be outlawed.”
By outlawing first cousin marriages, many forced marriages would become illegal. In Britain, 50% of pregnant Pakistanis are married to their first cousins, higher at 70% in Bradford. This statistic has a costly outcome, given as it is left to an already overstretched NHS to have to deal with the fallout when many of these parents have disabled or very sick children. A cost that Britain should not have to face.