We were honoured to be beaten to the post in the Human Rights Awards by Southall Black Sisters last year, and are now delighted that one of their long-running campaigns against forced marriage has received a tremendous boost:
Tony Blair is to back moves to make forced marriages illegal. The move, a U-turn in government policy, will ensure the introduction of a new law enshrining powerful rights for victims, many of them under age, who have been compelled to marry against their will.
The Prime Minister’s change of heart, revealed in an exclusive interview with The Observer, means that legislation introduced in the Lords by the Liberal Democratic peer, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, will obtain the government backing it has previously been denied.
Absolutely astonishing that it’s taken so long. It seems that part of the problem stemmed from reluctance to interfere in ‘cultural’ practices – a factor in the Victoria Climbie tragedy, too, when her obvious terror of her aunt was attributed to cultural manifestations of respect.
I well remember attending a packed-out public meeting 3 years ago at which scores of black parents waxed vitriolic about the racist implication that they all approved of fear as a parenting tool. I’m quite sure a lot of Asian families feel exactly the same now about forced marriage.