:: Maruf Ahmed ::
Save Your Rights (SYR) hosted an event at the House of Lords to premiere its film ‘Life in the UK’ directed by Jobair Babu. The film, a docu-drama and SYR’s major project in 2010, was funded by the Big Lottery and supported by Diverse FM, Ashuk Ahmed MBE and many others.
The premiere was chaired by Lord Ahmed. In addition to the attendance of many distinguished guests and volunteers, SYR was particularly honored to have in attendance Lord Hussain, Lord Dubs, Dr. Nazia Khanum OBE, Mushtaq Lasharie, DCI Nigel Stone (Bedfordshire Police), Chaz Akoshile (incoming Joint Head of the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU)), and Deborah Aitken (Consular Officer of the Canadian High Commission).
Lord Ahmed recalled how, as the one of the first people in the Asian community to raise the issue of forced marriage publicly, he had received threats from his community. Lord Hussain highlighted the importance of educating parents about the problem and reiterated that forced marriage was against all mainstream religions. Lord Dubs encouraged everyone present to take the anti-forced marriage message to their communities and pledged to highlight the issue in the political arena. While Dr Khanum OBE, who chaired the SYR research and ethics committee, spoke out against any criminalisation of forced marriage on the ground that victims were reluctant to imprison their parents. Chaz Akoshile noted the importance of inter-agency work and co-operation. Deborah Aitken said that she was now coming across a number of cases of forced marriage involving Canadian citizens.
At the event, SYR also launched a research paper, ‘The Legal Framework on Forced Marriages in the United Kingdom and some Recommendations.’ The paper, compiled by a specially commissioned research and ethics team,
examines the development of the law on forced marriage and considers developments in the wake of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007. Samir Pasha, the team leader, outlined recommendations for future developments in the area.
Lynne Townley (SYR Secretary), Mamunul Islam MBA (SYR Projects Director) and Ranjula Takodra MBE (SYR President) gave votes of thanks to all those who had assisted with the doc-drama and the research report. Lynne further highlighted how the charity functioned solely on the goodwill of its volunteers and outlined how SYR planned to campaign on an international level in future through creative use of its available resources, in particular, the internet.
Forced marriage is an abuse of human rights and a fundamental wrong. It is not lawful in the UK. However, many young people living in this country are forced into marriages against their will every year. In 2010, the FMU dealt with 1,735 cases. The creation of the FMU and the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 are important measures to stop this abuse from occurring.
Unfortunately, for many of those threatened by forced marriage, legal remedies are often remote and difficult to access. Victims can be vulnerable and may also be at risk from honour-based violence. Many are under intense pressure from their families and communities to be complicit to the marriage. Some may also fear that taking legal action will not assist them. Furthermore, if any legal interventions are to be effective, they must be supported not only by active community engagement, but also by changes in society.