‘Fear of being branded racist’ stops UK cops from halting forced marriages

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Police are failing to take action against forced marriages for fear of being called “racist”, according to women’s rights campaigner Yasmin Choudhury.

Writing for the Independent, Choudhury said strict traditions in South Asian communities have led to authorities shying away “from the problem of fear of cultural offence.”

“Low conviction rates are the result of timidity: police, local and national governments fear accusations of ‘racism’ or of interfering in cultures,” she said.

The criticism emerged over the case of an eight-year-old schoolboy who was among scores of children feared to be at risk of forced marriage, with police failing to take action.

Despite the government setting up a Forced Marriage Unit in the UK and overseas, for cases involving British citizens, there have been few prosecutions.

Figures obtained by the Guardian show a significant decrease in the number of prosecutions of forced marriage cases in West Yorkshire since 2014. Out of 51 incidents recorded in the county, 35 investigations were dropped due to “evidential difficulties”.

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Many forced marriage cases involve emotional blackmailing and physical and verbal abuse with the victim forced to partake in a marriage to a partner from the country of their parents’ origin.

In 2014 there were 88 countries involved in forced marriages, 38 percent of the cases were linked to Pakistan and 8 percent to India, according to government figures.

The government introduced the forced marriage law in 2014, which made it a criminal offence to marry off family members without their consent, resulting in a seven-year prison sentence if found guilty.

So far, only one man has been convicted under the law.  He was sentenced to 16 years in prison for a combination of charges including rape, bigamy, voyeurism and forced marriage.

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