UK schools are being given guidance on signs that pupils may be getting forced into unwilling marriages, and are being asked to alert authorities. Now is a key time– as school holidays are approaching, and forced marriages often happen during the holidays. It’s clear from the way the guidance is written that schools are often reluctant to interfere in what they view as cultural or religious traditions. That’s why Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant explains:
“I should make it absolutely clear there is no culture and there is no religion in which forced marriage should be acceptable or indeed is acceptable,” he added.
“I know there are maybe some people who think this is an issue about Islam – it’s not. Islam does not recommend or accept forced marriage. Marriage in every religion has to be freely and openly consented to.”
Jasvinder Singh of Karma Nirvana, a national campaign group against forced marriages, emphasises a similar point:
“This is not something you must be culturally sensitive about,” she said. “This is a child abuse issue, and you must treat it in that way and follow your child protection procedures. Do not turn a blind eye”.
Interestingly, of course, one can agree with Singh and disagree with Bryant. Everything Singh says is true even if there *is* a religion that condones forced marriage. (Which matters, because surely there are at least some small religious sects that condone forced marriages. And there are many more where people, especially women, have few options other than obedience– which arguably counts as forcing.) thanks, Jender-Parents!