- From The Times
April 4, 2009
Judges back Muslim groups in condemnation of forced marriage
Frances Gibb, Legal Editor
Senior family judges have joined Muslim leaders in condemning forced marriage as intolerable and a gross abuse of human rights.
Sir Mark Potter, Britainâs most senior family judge, and Mr Justice Munby, a High Court judge, said the challenge was to spread the message that forced marriage was not acceptable, and pledged the courtsâ backing to prevent such marriages.
The judges were speaking at a seminar on forced marriages at the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel, East London, where four key Muslim organisations â" the Islamic Sharia Council, the Council of Mosques, the Islamic Cultural Centre and the East London Mosque â" said that forced marriage was contrary to Islam and not to be condoned.
Both judges drew a distinction between forced and arranged marriages, saying that the latter were lawful, were accepted in many societies and should be respected.
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Each year more than 250 cases of forced marriage are reported to the Forced Marriage Unit run by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Mr Justice Munby said: âForced marriage is intolerable. It is a gross abuse of human rights. It is a form of domestic violence that dehumanises people by denying them their right to choose how to live their lives..â
Where courts could intervene in time, they would make orders preventing the âmarriageâ and stop a victim being taken abroad to be married. Where the victim had already been taken abroad, the courts would make orders to ensure that the victim was repatriated to this country, he said.
Protective orders might then be needed to protect the victim from retaliation by her or his oppressors. The judge added that criminal offences may apply in cases of forced marriage. There were also civil remedies.
The deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain started a legal action against Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, yesterday. Daud Abdullah is seeking damages for defamation after Ms Blears severed official links with the Council over his signing of a declaration that she believes advocates attacks on British military personnel and Israel. He firmly rejects this.