Britain's Forced Marriage Act Assists Bangladeshi Woman
Tuesday, December 30, 2008 12:01 PM

Britain’s Forced Marriage Act of 2007, which entered into force in November 2008, has already been used to help victims of forced marriage escape abuse. One woman, a Bangladeshi named Humayra Abedin who had been living in Britain for six years, was enticed into returning to her home country in August 2008.  She was soon after coerced by her family to marry a man against her will and not allowed to leave.

The British High Court issued a protection order under the Act in December to force Abedin’s family to allow her to return to Britain. While the order is not enforceable inside Bangladesh, a local judge reviewing Abedin’s case to nullify the marriage learned of the British ruling and complied. He ordered Abedin’s parents to return her identification documents and to permit her to leave.

According to Time Magazine, most countries do not have laws prohibiting forced marriage and use other laws against kidnapping or abuse to prosecute. Numbers of victims are hard to determine, in part because many women are afraid to come forward about their forced marriages. In Britain, during the first three quarters of 2008, the Forced Marriage Unit saw 1,300 cases, which was 79 percent higher than the previous year. The Forced Marriage Unit helps people who had forced marriages abroad, are at risk for forced marriage, or who have friends or relatives who are in danger of forced marriage. Most calls received by the Unit in 2008 related to cases in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Some advocates do not think that the Forced Marriage Act is the best way to combat the problem. Some women decide not to come forward because doing so may completely isolate themselves from their families, and they may not be employed or have any other means of support. Others hope that Abedin’s case will encourage others to come forward to utilize the new law and will discourage families around the world from forcing their children into marriage.

Compiled from: Guzder, Deena, The Best Way to Curb Forced Marriages, Time, 26 December 2008; Forced Marriage Unit, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2007; Bowcott, Owen and Jenny Percival, Bangladeshi 'forced marriage' GP due back in Britain tomorrow, The Guardian, 15 December 2008.