The topic for debate was arranged and forced marriage, highlighted by Lord Lester's Bill on forced marriage, which is currently making its way through both chambers and has bi-partisan support.The room was stacked to the rafters with women and a few men, of all ethnic backgrounds and age groups. Author and co-founder of the refuge, Karma Nirvana, Jasvinder Sanghera, kicked off the evening speaking of her personal experience of being forced into a marrige when she was just fourteen. She did not accept her parents choice and ran away from home. More than twenty years ago, she has not had any significant contact with her family since. They do not speak to her or acknowledge her work. Needless to say it was very powerful and questions from the floor demonstrated that forced marriage has great relevance among female British Asian communities today. Perhaps the most significant points were raised by Caroline Spelman and Sayeeda Warsi. Caroline rightly, pointed out that whilst legislation is a strong deterrent it cannot work alone. The cultural shift must also be made to make it socially unacceptable as well as illegal. This means the communities involved, government, statuatory groups and media all have to work together to get the message across that forced marriage endangers an individual's basic human right. Sayeeda echoed this when she said that if ethnic communities are going to talk about religious and cultural freedom then they must also fully accept gender equality. She added that ethnic communities must take ownership of this issue and move it forward. It was a good start for the new Muslim Group and I hope the first of many such events.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Forced Marriage Highlighted at Tory Women's Meeting
I've just had this from a friend who last night attended the first Conservative Women's Organisation Muslim Group meeting at the House of Commons.