Letters: No need to outlaw forced marriages

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Is criminalisation of forced marriage necessary (leading article, 3 April)? The Coalition Government's recent consultation on this was preceded by an announcement about its intention to criminalise it.

Proponents of criminalisation maintain that existing laws are inadequate and criminalisation would strengthen the ability to tackle the issue. However well-intentioned, any new legislation may achieve a "quick fix" rather than an effective solution to this complicated problem. Frontline organisations are concerned that it may deter victims from reporting the problem and seeking help.

Many victims are reluctant to tell the authorities in case their families face criminal sanctions. Victims often need to be reassured that protection can be obtained in the family courts, and that their families will not be prosecuted, before they will agree to a formal statement. This would not be possible if plans to criminalise forced marriage go ahead.

The recent creation of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 within existing domestic violence legislation in England and Wales was a positive development. The increasing number of applications for protection orders (far exceeding the numbers anticipated) is a strong indication that the legislation is effective.

We support the proposal to criminalise any breaches of the civil protection orders to bring this area of law in line with the law relating to domestic violence where breaches of civil non-molestation orders are treated as criminal offences.

Domestic violence is prosecuted under a range of separate offences and there is no existing or proposed specific criminal offence of domestic violence. In forced marriage too, the CPS should be prosecuting the many serious criminal offences already committed during a forced marriage, including rape, kidnap and assault. On conviction, the circumstances of forced marriage should be introduced as an aggravating feature at the sentencing stage.

Statutory agencies (including the education, health, police and social services) are insufficiently versed in the Government's own best practice guidelines for dealing with forced marriage cases. Further training for relevant professionals is needed urgently to ensure that existing criminal and civil remedies including child-safeguarding mechanisms are used effectively.

The proposed legislation is likely to have few positive effects and may negatively impact on efforts both to combat the issue and to help individual victims.

Dr Aisha K Gill

Criminologist, University of Roehampton

Khatun Sapnara

Barrister, Coram Chambers and chair of Ashiana Network

Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC

Roger McCarthy QC

Stephen Cobb QC

Nicki Norman

Deputy Chief Executive, Women's Aid Federation of England

Hannana Siddiqui, Pragna Patel

Southall Black Sisters

Dr Sundari Anitha

Criminologist, University of Lincoln, and 60 other signatories. Full list on webpage.

Rachel Langdale QC (7 Bedford Row Chambers)

Jo Delahunty QC (4 Paper Buildings Chambers)

Teertha Gupta QC (4 Paper Buildings Chambers)

Shaminder Ubhi (Director, Ashiana Network)

Marai Larassi MBE (Director, Imkaan)

Sophia Harris (Parliamentary Legal Officer, The Odysseus Trust)

Emma Scott (Director, Rights of Women)

Shahien Taj MBE (Executive Director, Henna Foundation)

Holly Dustin (Director, End Violence Against Women Coalition)

Davina James-Hanman (Director, Against Violence and Abuse)

Ila Patel (Director, Asha Projects Lambeth)

Sajda Mughal (JAN Trust)

Gurpreet Virdee (Development Director, Women and Girls Network)

Kulbinder Chohan (Chief Executive, Roshni Birmingham)

Umme Imam (Manager, The Angelou Centre, Newcastle)

Dr Annette Lawson OBE (Chair, The Judith Trust)

Paula Hardy (Chief Executive, Welsh Women's Aid)

Margaret Smith (Cardiff Women's Safety Unit)

Dr Anicee Van Engeland (Lecturer in law, University of Exeter)

Dr Pathik Pathak (Lecturer in Sociology, University of Southampton)

Dr Nazneen Ahmed (Research Fellow, University of Oxford)

Malek Wan Daud (Barrister, Garden Court Chambers)

Sam Momtaz (Barrister, One Garden Court Chambers)

Susan George (Barrister, Coram Chambers)

Anita Guha (Barrister, 7 Bedford Row Chambers)

Jeremy Brown (Barrister, Coram Chambers)

Jerry Fitzpatrick (Barrister, Coram Chambers)

Kate Purkiss (Barrister, Coram Chambers)

Katy Rensten (Barrister, Coram Chambers)

Daisy Hughes (Barrister, Coram Chambers)

Caitlin Ferris (Barrister, Coram Chambers)

Georgina Rushworth (Barrister, Coram Chambers)

Nicholas Horsley (Barrister, Coram Chambers)

Frances Orchover (Barrister, Coram Chambers)

Meena Gill (Barrister, Coram Chambers)

Siobhan Kelly (Barrister, Coram Chambers)

Radhika Handa (Barrister, Coram Chambers)

Laura McMullen (Barrister, Coram Chambers)

Sabuhi Chaudhry (Barrister, Coram Chambers)

Sally Bradley (Barrister, 4 Paper Buildings Chambers)

Andrew Norton (Barrister, One Garden Court Chambers)

Ruth Kirby (Barrister, 4 Paper Buildings Chambers)

Michael Edwards (Barrister, 4 Paper Buildings Chambers)

Rachael Rowley-Fox (Barrister, Garden Court Chambers)

Birinder Kang (Barrister, Garden Court Chambers)

Henry Drayton (Barrister, Garden Court Chambers)

Sharon Love (Barrister, Garden Court Chambers)

Tahera Ladak (Barrister, 1 Pump Court Chambers)

Adrienne Barnett (Barrister, 1 Pump Court Chambers)

Lindsay Adams (Barrister, 1 Pump Court Chambers)

Peggy Ekeledo (Barrister, Took's Court Chambers)

Sarah Davies barrister from 1 Pump Court

Hanisha Patel (Barrister, 7 Bedford Row Chambers)

Gillian Downham (One Garden Court Chambers)

Anne-Marie Hutchinson OBE (Partner, Dawson Cornwell solicitors)

Sabina Mahmud (Partner, Munro Solicitors)

Saika Alam (Partner, Huggins and Lewis Foskett-Solicitors)

Rajinder Garvey (Partner, Edwards Duthie solicitors)

Davinder Sehmi (Partner, Matwala Vyas Solicitors)

Sukhchandan P Kaur (Vice Chair, Naglaro)

Priya Chopra, Director, Saheli Manchester

Falklands brought jingoistic Tories back to the fold

Dominic Lawson is fanciful in his interpretation of the electoral effect of the Falklands war. A more plausible explanation than a general patriotism is that the Tories are, by nature, jingoistic, and that a good war brought back to the fold those 1979 supporters who had become disillusioned with the general incompetence and violently deflationary policies of Thatcher's first term.

If "public support" is measured in proportion of the popular vote, rather than the artificial magnification of constituency results, the 1983 election showed a drop to 42.4 per cent from 43.9 per cent in 1979. In terms of seats won, the Tory success is better explained by the split from Labour of Owen, Rogers, Williams et al, to set up the SDP, and the "longest suicide note in history" of the radical Labour election manifesto.

It is perfectly possible to be intensely proud of the capabilities of Britain's Armed Forces, as I was at the time of the Falklands, and simultaneously despise the incompetence of Tory management of the Falklands issue, (including the ridiculous withdrawal of Endurance to save a meagre £3m per annum), which had to be salvaged at such a heavy price in blood and treasure.

Robert H Baker

Arkholme, Lancashire

"To support Argentina over the Falklands is to support the colonisation of a people who have lived there in peace since before present-day Argentina was established and before it incorporated Patagonia", writes John Birkett (letter, 2 April).

Incorporation of Patagonia is an unnecessarily polite way to describe Argentina's colonialist invasion, 150 years ago, of the independent territory of Wallmapu, for the oppression of whose indigenous Mapuche nation it is presently in the dock at the UN.

David Crawford

Bromley, Kent

Time for Labour to get radical

Mary Ann Sieghart hasn't got a clue about the depth of the political anger in the country ("Labour's wrong if it thinks it's time for a shift to the left", 2 April.) The two Eds must be "bold and left" after George Galloway's Respect victory in a "safe" Labour backyard.

Many electors are sick and tired of "focus group percentage politics" and want the Labour Party to clearly put this ConDem government to the sword, rather than wring their hands and claim that nothing much can be done in the present economic climate.

Here's the radical alternative. Commitments to taking our rail network back into some form of democratically accountable ownership, a more vigorous response to the unacceptable levels of youth unemployment, immediate reversal of the market-led NHS reforms in 2015 and root and branch democratic renewal, including electoral reform and empowering the English regions.

How is this programme to be paid for? A Tobin tax on all the City's speculative transactions, squeeze the bankers' bonuses till they squeak, restore the 50p rate of tax and introduce a new tax on internet advertising, which generates billions in revenue for that industry. Now that's something we Labour activists could get out of bed for and successfully promote with voters.

Richard Denton-White

Portland, Dorset

IB more effective than A-levels

As a leading state grammar school, we have moved from offering the "dual economy" of A-levels and IB to an "IB only" sixth-form curriculum because our students have found that the IB is far more effective in preparing them for undergraduate study and future success.

The core elements of the extended essay and theory of knowledge, as well as the depth of academic understanding in both higher level and standard level subjects, mean they begin university several steps ahead of their peers. It is this emphasis on understanding, discovery and investigation rather than rote learning and parcels of information to remember that makes the IB so different from A-levels.

The IB diploma is an ideal springboard for university success.

John Oakes

Headmaster, Dartford Grammar School, Kent

Get ready for airport delay

Anyone arriving at Stansted airport shortly after 11 last Thursday evening without an EU passport was welcomed to the UK by the sight of a very long queue and forced to await their UK border check by a solitary immigration official. I waited for two and a half hours for my visitor to emerge.

This was just further evidence of government policy designed to pay lip service to public service delivery because saving public money is so much more important. One other by-product of my wait was to help swell the coffers of BAA through their exorbitant parking fees, while taxi-drivers rubbed their hands with glee at the prospect of all those last trains missed.

Michael Barnes

Cambridge

Young journalists changing society

Your article "A good news man in Africa" (4 April) underlines the need for more bottom-up, community journalism in both this country and overseas. I've witnessed the transformational impact of grassroots media in developing countries. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, young people have taken to the radio waves to expose police negligence and to change local attitudes to female genital mutilation.

In Egypt, TV shows produced by teenagers have revealed violence against children. In Senegal, youth radio shows have encouraged more girls to return to school, and understanding of HIV has grown in Honduras thanks to TV broadcasts by young people. Such community journalism leads to social change by raising awareness, inspiring action and encouraging mainstream journalists to take up similar issues. It's time we saw more of it.

Marie Staunton

Chief Executive, Plan UK, London EC1

No chaos this Easter, rail chief pledges

It is not the case that there will be "chaos" on the railways this Easter or that trains will be in "meltdown" (report, 4 April). We're expecting more than seven million people to travel by train over the weekend and most will experience no disruption. This Easter, £40m will be invested in improvements to give people better, faster and more reliable journeys. On the small number of routes affected by works, a huge amount of planning goes into making sure that we keep passengers on trains wherever possible. There will be a third fewer replacement buses compared to last Easter, testament to the industry's hard work in keeping services running smoothly.

Edward Welsh

Director of Corporate Affairs, Association of Train Operating Companies, London WC1

Mind the cash gap

Am I the only one in sheer shock and disbelief at Tube drivers getting £1,000 just to turn up for work during the Olympics, and many will be paid £6,000 just for doing their job? As someone who is not entitled to benefits if I lose my job (because I have a partner who works), yet have paid tax and national insurance over half of my life, I find this disgusting, especially when there are so many without jobs. Are unions really trying to dig their own graves?

Robert Brown

Southend-on-Sea

A vicious circle

It is self-evident that deprivation was a major cause of last summer's riots (report, 29 March); they were in Tottenham not Totteridge. But to fine schools for failing to improve literacy is absurd: it is the very pupils who most need educating that make learning for the majority impossible and therefore have to be excluded. It's a vicious circle.

Stan Labovitch

Windsor

It's a man's world

Now I understand. The Today programme is the "British broadcasting Royalty" ("Evan Davis: Quiet man of the airwaves bites back", 2 April). So that's why they cling so doggedly to the principle of male succession.

Kate Francis

Bristol

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