Letter: Romance plays little part in the lives of most child brides

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The Independent Online
From Mr Michael Johnson

Sir: Sarah Cook is already caught in a conflict between Turkish state law, which does not permit her "marriage", and Islamic law which apparently does. The position is similar in the UK, where the minimum age for marriage is imposed for social and civil reasons, not because of dogma: the Christian churches accepted child marriages for centuries. At the same time, this reaction lays us open to the charge of hypocrisy, because under-age sex and pregnancies happen here and we tolerate them while still forbidding marriage before 16.

There is a real risk of letting this rather pathetic case balloon into a clash of cultures, in which the arguments would not all be on the British side. The backwash could seriously weaken our credibility when with other governments we take a moral position in pressing Turkey on fundamental human rights issues. It could also further damage understanding between Islam and western Europe, including Britain.

None of that would help Sarah. If she were in the UK, the case would be handled according to UK law and policy. As she is in Turkey she should be allowed to await the decision of the courts and, as she grows up, to decide with her family what to do.

Yours faithfully,

Michael Johnson

London, N6

28 January