IoS letters, emails & online postings (12 July, 2009)

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You report that there were 770 calls to the Forced Marriage Unit in the first six months of this year, a 16 per cent increase on last year ("I can't forgive or forget what they did to me", 5 July).

Chris Bryant, the Foreign Office minister, has given teachers, doctors and police guidelines that aim to identify girls who could be forced to marry abroad in the summer holidays. He acknowledged that some of these professional people might have been "uncertain about cultural sensitivities".

I find that statement alarming, since it seems to imply a reluctance to act for fear of being called racist. I am extremely surprised that so few arrests have been made.

A consultation paper last year about forced marriages found that "some police officers, teachers and public sector employees do not know that forced marriage is wrong". This is unbelievable and unacceptable. Forced marriage is a lifetime sentence and is a serious crime, which justifies a custodial sentence. Forced marriages can also lead to so-called "honour killings".

This sham consultation did absolutely nothing because of "cultural sensitivities", and this is why there is still a major problem with what should be termed "child abductions".

Clark Cross

Linlithgow, West Lothian

Where are the Muslim women, or men, demonstrating against forced marriage, kidnapping, and slavery? Perhaps fear of fellow Muslims keeps some from speaking out. The ideology of Islam is incompatible with any concept of freedom or human rights, especially for women. I'm not recommending any violent clash of civilisations. However, I do believe that Islam must be subordinated to secular law and civil government. The alternative is theocracy.

mstamper

posted online

People are confusing religion with culture. My father is Pakistani but comes from a Christian family. He sent me abroad as a teenager, then told me not to come home as my uncle would be adopting me, because he thought I was too independent. He has also offered to pay for trips to family weddings which always turned out to be fabrications to get me to meet prospective husbands. For him, this is perfectly acceptable behaviour as that was the kind of culture he grew up in. It has nothing to do with Islamic religion.

blueskyballoon

posted online

The commercial obsession with sex and Western society's redefinition of breast function have skewed the British view of female mammaries ("Two mothers in three 'fear stares if they breastfeed'", 5 July). The breast is defined as exclusively for the sexual pleasure of the male. This elevation of the secondary sexual function to a primary and exclusively sexual role clearly produces conflicts. Only by addressing this will practice change. If the education of our youth included programmes that presented a baby fed with an actual breast, not a bottle, there might be a glimmer of hope.

Any genuine wish by government to encourage breastfeeding would involve (1) ensuring our media portray the natural version, drop images of babies fed with a bottle, and, as with cigarettes, banning advertising; (2) a high-profile study of the male predicament and the "theft" of the breast, and; (3) an end to production of and investment in baby formula worldwide.

Monica Selden

via email

Rather than judge the Tories by what they say, judge them by how they vote; particularly here in the European Parliament where they have joined a dubious grouping of climate-change deniers and homophobes ("Leaders of the gay revolution", 5 July).

The Tories have never voted in favour of lesbian or gay equality in the European Parliament. And as recently as May, when we voted to ensure protection from discrimination in the supply of goods and services, the Tories at best abstained; at worst voted against. And this has special significance; all these equality measures have to be agreed unanimously.

The Tories promise a review of "over regulation", and under that guise I believe the rights of many people will be vulnerable. At EU level they have already committed to opting out of all the rights for British workers which arise in the Social Chapter. How long before other rights are targeted?

Michael Cashman MEP

Labour Spokesperson Justice and Home Affairs

West Bromwich, West Midlands

Sarah Sands, in "Passion, drama, agony: a British institution in the making" (5 July) describes Harry Potter as "a narrative epic – all the greatest stories ever told wrapped into one ... from Dante to Beowulf to Dickens.... How proud we should be of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as a glorious national institution...." Quite right! But it should be acknowledged that J R R Tolkien got there first. The success of J K Rowling and Harry Potter is largely a case of the wren riding on the eagle's back, as in the fable of Aesop.

Julie Sinclair

Verwood, Dorset

Have your say

Letters to the Editor, The Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF; email: sundayletters@independent.co.uk (no attachments, please); fax: 020-7005 2627; online: independent.co.uk/dayinapage/2009/July/12

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