UK Court Strikes Down Forced-Marriage Law

Dipankar De Sarkar, Hindustan Times (New Delhi), December 22, 2010

Campaigners against forced marriages were left worried after a British court, ruling on an immigration matter on Tuesday, struck down a law aimed at preventing such marriages. The High Court overturned a ban on married people from outside Europe joining their British spouses if they are below 21 years of age.

The ban was thought to have been well-intentioned as it was aimed at curbing forced marriages in Britain, a practice that often leads to violence against young people and sometimes to honour killings and suicides.

But the court struck down the two-year-old ban as a result of a human rights challenge brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), a nonprofit organisation.

The JCWI argued that marriage is a fundamental right and that “legislation aimed at stopping forced marriages prevented young people obtaining visas to join spouses or partners in the UK.” Married Britons have no such restrictions, even if they are below 21 years of age.

In Britain, violence over forced marriages affects Sikhs, and Bangladeshi and Pakistani Muslims among other communities.

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