For (having a new law against forced marriage)
British-born Anita, now in her mid 20s, was forced into marriage in Kashmir when she was 16, to a cousin 10 years older who wanted to enter the UK. Her father and his family were the driving force behind the marriage in which she was raped, physically abused and left overseas. She got back home and tried, but failed to stop the Home Office issuing her "husband" a spousal visa. She ran away after her father beat her up and has not seen or spoken to him in years, but did not press criminal charges against him for the assaults due to pressure. She believes criminalisation would have deterred her father from forcing the marriage, and would have helped her to understand that what they were doing was wrong.
“I didn’t realise at the time how serious it was, I just went along with it. At the time I was being pressured by the police to make a decision about pressing charges against my father so I said no. In hindsight, now that I’m in a better state of mind- safe and wiser I believe my dad did deserve to be punished. I love him but if you commit a crime, you should be punished… it would have been helpful if the authorities had stepped in on my behalf, instead they left it as just another South Asian domestic.
“My ex-husband is still here, with a wife and two children, while I still spend my life looking over my shoulder; the system and policies failed me. The Home Offices hands were tied because I did not have enough evidence to defend myself. Make it a criminal offence full stop, it is not about insulting the South Asian culture it is about zero tolerance policy on a breach of human rights.
"If it is not stopped, people will not be taken seriously, just as I was not."
Against (having a new law against forced marriage)
Sara, 20, was persuaded to apply for a forced marriage protection order in 2009 while living in a refuge. She ran away when her elder brother locked her up, severely physically assaulted her and threatened to send her back to Bangladesh after he discovered she had a boyfriend. Sara’s older sister had been forced into a marriage at the age of 18 in similar circumstances, so even though she didn’t want to, a protection order was issued naming her parents and brother.
She went back home after six months in a refuge, missing her home and family despite the trauma they had all subjected her too. Sara still feels responsible for “bringing shame” on the family, and still feels like a bit of an outcast, but feels safer at home because of the protection order. Sara would never have pressed charges against anyone in her family.
“I would never want my family to get into trouble or go to prison; I would never have done that. The order is good because it gives them the message.”