Letter: Forced marriages

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Ann Cryer and the Government call for Asian community leaders to condemn forced marriages ("Shame", 27 May).

We know from experience, however, that these leaders often pay lip service, rather than act to create genuine change. It is often the same community leaders who attack and undermine Asian women's organisations, often the only agencies providing frontline services to women in need.

The state has a responsibility to protect women. The police, social services and other agencies such as schools are woefully inadequate in providing effective protection, usually in the name of respecting minority cultural practices. Multi-cultural policies deny women from minority communities the right to services available to other women in society.

Forced marriage is a form of domestic violence and child abuse, often involving emotional blackmail and mental cruelty, physical violence, rape and sexual abuse, false imprisonment, abduction and even murder. Yet we find the police do not treat them as serious crimes and social services fail to intervene - often adopting a mediatory and conciliatory approach, appeasing men for the sake of "good community relations".

The Government can act to support our work, both financially and politically, giving a clear signal to the community, service-providers and policy-makers that it will not tolerate any violation of women's human rights, and will work with us to ensure the protection of all women.

HANNANA SIDDIQUI

Southall Black Sisters,

Middlesex

SHAMSHAD HUSSAIN

Asian Women's Monitoring Group, Bradford

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