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Wednesday, 13 February, 2002, 13:40 GMT
Arranged marriages: Should the government be involved?
A suggestion by the Home Secretary David Blunkett that Asians should make arranged marriages all-British has been branded ''deeply offensive''.

Mr Blunkett says he wants to see "a discussion" within communities which practised arranged marriage, as to whether more of them could be undertaken in the UK.

He says he wants to break down "the terrible tensions that exist when people feel trapped between two different cultures and backgrounds''.

But a Labour Peer, Baroness Uddin, has called the suggestion "deeply offensive" to the Asian community and wants the Home Secretary to think again.

Should the government be involved in arranged marriages? Would it encourage social integration? Or does it infringe freedom of choice?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Forced marriages are totally different and should be fought against.

Ashiq, UK
For the record there is nothing wrong or illegal in having an arranged marriage. This practice still exists among the aristocracy throughout Europe. Forced marriages are totally different and should be fought against. But those people talking about illegal immigrants don't seem to realise that people who enter the UK to join their spouses are NOT illegal immigrants. Also does this mean that Mr Blunkett will also oppose the practice of mail order brides from East Europe and the Far East? Or is that acceptable because it is practiced by white men in the main?
Ashiq, UK

The Government should not get involved in arranged marriages between adults. It should, however, do something about the arranged marriages that involve children. The children (more often the girls than the boys) are sent "home" i.e. the country of the parents, to get married. Consent doesn't come into it. The married couple then returns when the bride is of age. This is vastly damaging to the children and does Asian culture in the UK no good at all.
Fatimah Begum, UK

Arranged marriages with partners from the sub-continent, mainly from the rural areas of Pakistan and Bangladesh, are used primarily to facilitate settlement in the UK. It might be difficult to imagine the status that families with UK based relatives have in these areas; something other families can only realistically achieve through a marriage with a UK based partner. This is context in which the arranged marriages take place - the trading of favours and assets between local families. The prospective partner's grasp of English, employment prospects, adaptability to life in the UK and so on are not top of the parents' requirements.

Those who cite tradition to justify this practice usually forget to mention another, very strong sub-continent tradition - that a bride always leave home to join their husband's family. Yet it is virtually unheard of for brides to leave the UK to join their husbands in the sub-continent! Tradition is clearly no match for expediency.
A de Souza, UK

A divorced Asian is very much a social outcast

U, England
I've noticed many comments about the low divorce rate in the Asian community. Is it not possible that this is due to social and family pressure rather than marital bliss? A divorced Asian is very much a social outcast - this makes divorce less likely. This is a very complex issue and for a start there needs to be a more clear distinction between forced and arranged marriages. I think there are many that are somewhere in between.
U, England

Why does this have to be a race issue? Arranged marriages occur in all... yes ALL religions. If someone is about to be married to someone he/she doesn't know very well does it not make sense for the two people to have at least one thing in common...their country? To all those who think that Mr Blunkett was wrong in his suggestion; what possible motive could there be for arranging a marriage with someone from abroad? What common ground will the bride and her groom have?
Sadia, UK

The simple solution would be for the foreign spouse to be issued a 1-2 year residency permit, allowing them to live in the UK with their partner but not giving them the right to work or claim benefits. This permit should be renewable indefinitely upon proof that the marriage has not ended. They would then of course be able to apply to become a full citizen but would have to go through the same application process as any other would-be immigrant.
Jon Hawkins, Oxford, UK

There will be two sides for every story. In my opinion, the government is getting involved too much in cultural aspects of any religion is unacceptable when a culture has its own advantages (like parents getting separated in arranged marriages is very low when compared to other's), there by children will have a beautiful atmosphere to live. On the other hand if marriages are forced, it is not acceptable and I am sure these days educated and people who are British now with some other origins can say "No" if they do not want arranged marriages.
Suneetha, UK

So much for freedom of religion in the UK

Stephen, USA
So much for freedom of religion in the UK, once the government gets involved in saying what's ok and what isn't, you may as well write-off yet another freedom, once guaranteed now deemed unacceptable due to the mild-fascism of contemporary political correctness.
Stephen, USA

Arranged marriage is fine as long as two people are introduced to each other. There should not be any pressure. The government should stay out of this. If the marriage is not done for immigration purposes. One man, one woman relationships really works.
Riz, Canada P> I fully agree with Rita. The vast majority of arranged marriages are to keep the parents happy. Mr Blunkett has suggested and not made into law his opinion. I do agree with him that you look at home first though.
Ashni Behal, USA

I am a British Hindu expected to marry a man of my own caste and religion. There is no freedom of choosing my own partner. For that simple reason I am very pleased that the government are tackling the issue of arranged marriages.
Rita, England

David Blunkett has only said what many sensible Asians have been saying for a long time.

Omar Mirza, UK
David Blunkett has only said what many sensible Asians have been saying for a long time. Asians in this country ought to choose, or at least consider more strongly, their spouses (in the context of an arranged marriage)from this country. There are far too many cultural clashes between people from here and the subcontinent. Social attitudes and numerous other sensibilities are vastly different e.g. attitudes to religion, work, family life, children etc. There is a misconception amongst first generation Asian elders (who are often the primary decision makers in such matters)that one spouse needs to be from 'back home' in order to keep a culture alive that has quite frankly been diluted and fused with English culture to a point where it has its own identity.
Omar Mirza, UK

If both parties are willing to accept an arranged marriage than that is fine but surely it must be wrong in any culture for people to be forced to marry against their will. I just don't see this issue as an attack on anyone's culture.
Anne, UK

Let's just clarify one point here, Mr Blunkett has suggested that there may be advantages to a greater proportion of those who wish for arranged marriages considering looking in this country before looking abroad. There has been no suggestion of banning the practice or having to seek home office approval (beyond that which is normal for one wishing to permanently enter this country). Secondly, having known an British girl of Indian descent who refused an arranged marriage to an Indian man in favour of her white English boyfriend, and having sampled her families reaction to this firsthand (myself, her and our respective partners having gone together to her niece's wedding) I would consider the practice of arranged marriages to be in itself racist, in operation if not intrinsically.
Peter D, UK

If Mr Blunkett had carried out his research effectively before making an "off the cuff" remark he would find that most Asians try very hard to find a partner from within the UK but due to very personal reasons find it necessary to expand their search outside of the UK. There are many religious reasons for such acts that Mr Blunkett is in no position to comment on. Would Mr Blunkett prefer a person to restrict their options of a partner to the UK and face the danger of adding to the ever increasing divorce figures or would he prefer someone to marry a partner they want and be happy creating the ideal family environment that many of us lack ?? Why do MPs have this repetitive problem with placing their feet in their mouths.
Harjit B, UK

I don't find it offensive that David Blunkett is questioning arranged marriage, in the same way I don't find it offensive that they preach "family" to western families. But it doesn't mean that I agree with him either, Governments should learn to stop trying to dictate how we live our lives. What next - disapproval of relationships formed on Club 18-30 holidays? Officially approved government checklists how we should meet / date prospective partners?
Stuart, UK

Blunkett should be looking at forced marriages and not arranged ones.

Muhammed Sgarif, UK
Blunkett should be looking at forced marriages and not arranged ones -There is a difference. Forced marriages is an abuse of human rights. Arranged marriages have been a part of Asian tradition and they cannot be simply discarded. Blunkett needs to present his proposals so that it applies to people from all backgrounds and not just people from the Indian sub-continent.
Muhammed Sgarif, UK

I think that there should a government initiative to stop David Blunkett having 4 initiatives each week. He is an interfering busy body.
Tom Sykes, England

When it comes down to it, this is all just another case of Blunkett trying to meddle in people's private lives, one more step along the road to a nanny state that treats its citizens like children.
Adam, England

Just imagine if I was in South Africa, Japan or any other country and they told me not to go back to my home country or country of birth but marry a women from the country I'm living in. Imagine how you would feel! It's stupid, we should be able to marry anyone from anywhere, be it in China, Pakistan, England or Antarctica. It should remain your choice not Blunketts or anyone else¿s.
Az, UK

How many Muslims here know of their friends or others who have been asked to go back home and marry someone they never met or even talked to before. They comfort themselves by saying that we'll go to 'Pakistan' or 'India' to just see him/her and if I don't like him/her I simply won't marry them. If they like each other - that's great, but if they don't, due to family pressure they get married. I myself can think of many many people in this situation and if this isn't forced marriage - what is. Mr Blunkett is right to a great degree and this practice needs to be stopped. Mind you, if we can't bring our parents minds into the 21st century, good luck Mr Blunkett - you'll deserve a medal.
Ali, UK

if Britain tells these people that their values and culture are not "British", it is creating second-class citizens

Maria Popova, US
Initially it seems quite reasonable and obvious that people who voluntarily decide to live in another country should abide by its laws and maybe even integrate culturally. However, unlike Germany, Britain allows the majority of its immigrants to become British citizens, rather than remain simply permanently residing aliens. Once, they are citizens they should be entitled to the same rights and privileges as "native" Britons, and their cultural norms should be regarded as just as British as their passports. This is where the problem comes from - if Britain tells these people that their values and culture are not "British", it is creating second-class citizens, who do not enjoy the full panoply of their citizenship rights. If Britain wants to be consistent it should either allow its Asian-born citizens to follow their values and customs, or make citizenship contingent on cultural assimilation (following the now fading German practice).
Maria Popova, US

Maybe the Government should do something about the number of divorces that taking place in the UK generally. Asian marriages lasts longer the English marriages. Doesn¿t that say something?
Naz , UK

I quite like Blunkett but I am a bit puzzled by his motives here. If he is really trying to stem the flow of immigrants into the UK, he should just come out and say so. If this is not his motive, then I think how Asians choose to find their partners is none of his business.
Andrew, UK

Having read most of the comments posted, I have come to the realisation that most, if not all British people are racist.
Shahid Uddin, UK

Some "native" Brits still enter marriage because of an unexpected pregnancy, or on the basis of a two-week holiday romance. If I lived in Pakistan and I wanted to marry an English woman and take her back to Pakistan to live, would the Pakistani government interfere, and tell me that I should only marry a girl of English descent who already lived in Pakistan? Would they force me to utilise the services of a marriage broker? Of course not!
John, England

I think it's important to clarify what is meant by arranged marriages

Saima, London, UK
As an Asian Muslim, I think it's important to clarify what is meant by arranged marriages. Generally they tend to be a marriage between two people who have been introduced by their parents. Their parents may have known each other for years or they themselves may have been just introduced to each other via a common friend or a community matchmaker. After the initial meeting between both sets of parents and the two single individuals in question, they may meet again several times together with their family within their homes or at the homes of friends.

Some go as far as to go for a meal together without their family. If the couple decide that they like each other and would like to get married on the basis of common values and outlooks on life, then they inform their parents and the marriage preparations begin. If not, the decision is relayed via a third party to avoid embarrassment and the process starts again with other people. The major difference between this type of marriage and Western marriages is that the family is heavily involved from the beginning, and that there isn't a prolonged dating period.

It is believed that the best parts of companionship should be saved for when there is a genuine long-term commitment, from both parties, within the safety of a secure marriage. This is how the majority of arranged marriages take place, with minor differences between different families. Forced marriages are a different case.
Saima, London, UK

There are several issues becoming confused here. 1 - forced marriage - which all but a tiny minority of British Asians condemn and which is an abuse of human rights, needing to be removed. 2 - arranged marriage - a custom current to some extent among most British people until the late 19th century and still current in Asian communities, in which partners are introduced by their families, and decide to marry with the support of their community. 3 - immigration - a completely separate issue which needs to be detached from any racial or cultural prejudice to be dealt with fairly.
Laura, UK

I do not have anything against arranged marriages per se, if it fulfils the wishes of both parties involved. However, the real issue underlying this debate is the acceptance or tolerance of cultural or religious practices that are against the accepted norms in this country. I am no liberal apologist for the idea that all cultures must be seen to be equal in the UK, even if our own is in a pretty dire state at the moment. Nor should I be coerced into realigning my British culture with any other.

Those that come to the UK must do so with the understanding that the freedoms of expression and movement that underpin our society are not to be abused by the imposition of sub-cultures or beliefs on the citizens of this country. Nor should the British taxpayer be expected to fund cultural differentiation, other than those indigenous to these isles i.e. English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish. We have enough problems with those without importing any more!!
Ian, UK

I think that a start could be made to resolving social integration problems if we stopped this "us and them" talk

Suzanne, Scotland
The debate as it stands seems to be focused on coloured immigrants and I agree with Nasir Nabi from Newcastle that we would do well to take a hard look at our own western culture before passing judgement on others. I think that a start could be made to resolving social integration problems if we stopped this "us and them" talk, focus on acceptance rather than tolerance, which implies a negative judgement.

I do not envy Mr Blunkett the task ahead of him as Home Secretary and I think that the subject of social exclusion has to be addressed, but the language being used at present seems to me very divisive. Almost as divisive as the concept of faith schools, whereas schools and education to my mind should remain secular. Either omit to teach children about any faith at all, or let them learn about all faiths and cultures. But that's another issue isn't it?
Suzanne, Scotland

I agree with David Blunkett on this issue. Arranged marriages are not British , if the ethnic minorities want to be fully accepted. THEY have to accept OUR values, not the reverse.
Sam, UK

Why should I give up my culture and beliefs to please those people who don't even try to understand my way of life?

Sadia , UK
I don't pay my taxes so that the government can tell me what to do with my private life. If I'm happy with the person my parents have chosen for me to marry, then I will marry the guy regardless of what some idiot in the government says! Why should I give up my culture and beliefs to please those people who don't even try to understand my way of life? I'm a law-abiding UK citizen, I have a job, I pay my taxes, I have no problem ingratiating among other cultures, so don't tell me I'm not doing enough to be more British! Did you British try to be more Indian or Asian when you colonised that country? No! So don't tell me what values and beliefs I should have!
Sadia , UK

From what I can understand of arranged marriages is that they work by trying to find people that are from similar backgrounds and cultures so that the couple will have similar expectations from their marriage. Seeing one of my friend's arranged marriage with a girl from Pakistan fall apart because of different expectations, I think British people, be they Asian or any other culture, are most likely to find a suitable partner with someone with a similar background to themselves. The fact is that British Asian culture is not the same culture as that in Pakistan. However, I do think that a working knowledge of the English language, culture and ways of life should be known by all who want to become British citizens, in order to protect them from those who would take advantage of their ignorance of these things.
Ali, UK

I do not see why everyone is so offended by arranged marriage

A Syed, UK
I do not see why everyone is so offended by arranged marriages. In an arranged marriage, your parents help you to find a spouse, as long as both parties are willing; why is that so offensive? I do agree that forced marriages are wrong and should be stamped out. I really think there are more important issues for the government to tackle.
A Syed, UK

Surely "arranged marriage" is the very definition of institutionalised racism or do Asian communities regularly arrange marriages outside their community? (Which incidently is Britain not Pakistan or India if you have chosen to live here). Its real purpose is about segregation and continuation of a way of life. In which case why do so many people get upset when British people express a wish to continue their way of life without having other cultures dictate their future? I am all for freedom and diversity, but it all seems to be a one way street. I live abroad and I live as the community does here in Switzerland. In Britain we seem to have arrived at a "tail wags dog" situation.
Peter, UK, Switzerland

If Mr Blunkett wants to heal the divisions within the nation maybe he should tackle the real problems such as racism

T Shah, UK
I have to admit I cannot believe this debate is happening. The debate on FORCED marriages is necessary. If civil rights are being abused this needs to be resolved as soon as possible. Yet arranged marriages are not an abuse of anyone's rights. In fact they are quite the opposite, they are a question of choice, and a right of every British citizen. Should they be entered into by free choice they can be a positive thing helping those who for whatever reason cannot find a partner. Should any person involved not have any choice it is a forced marriage and illegal, but not an arranged marriage.

This debate has started as a result of the riots that occurred. They did not start as a result of arranged marriages. They happened because people are afraid, white and Asian. If Mr Blunkett wants to heal the divisions within the nation maybe he should tackle the real problems such as racism, which leads to people cutting themselves of from those they fear. Social exclusion which has led to so many problems. I like the fact that I am British. I would never want to change that or leave this country. Yet if people like Mr Blunkett, who mean well but are sadly wrong, keep on targeting issues that are not that important to race relations within Britain, we will always be divided.
T Shah, UK

If immigrants keep marrying their own stock and kind especially from their own country of origin, it would not help with the racial integration and assimilation of the various ethnic groups in the UK. It's far better for the good of the country and the community to seek out those who are already in the UK. When in Rome, do as the Romans do so when in the UK, do likewise.

Arranged marriages have plus points but some minus points include coercions/forced marriages and those between very close relations (thereby resulting in deformities). Love marriages have minus points but the plus points are that you as an adult make the choice for your partner. Whether you actually make the right decision for yourself or not, you also have a far greater gene pool to choose from.
Yang, China

Having had experience of the immigration service from having been married to a foreign girl before, and now from my experiences trying to get my fiancee to join me in this country, I can categorically state that the procedures already in place are designed to make it very difficult and complex to achieve. And I am not even having an arranged marriage and easily meet all the criteria re: finance etc, so I would not even like to consider what it could be like for those that have arranged marriages.

And my sister-in-law was even refused access to this country by immigration at Heathrow when she came to visit me for a month, as immigration said that she might marry an Englishman as my wife did. I found this to be a totally ridiculous reason and the decisions of immigration officers seem to be linked to the nationality of the person involved; Americans no problem, Brazilians like my previous wife however, a completely different kettle of fish - and I dread the attitude of immigration with regard to my present fiancée, who is Thai.
Philip, England

How much choice did Prince Charles have in his marriage to Diana?

Austin Amadasun, Nigeria
Wonders will never cease. The great British love of hypocrisy again; how much choice did Prince Charles have in his marriage to Diana and why will you not accept his natural CHOICE of Camilla Parker-Bowles? How much say will William and Harry really have in their marriage? I hear he met a real nice girl while in the Gambia. Hmm!
Austin Amadasun, Nigeria

Which of the royal marriages before 1920 was not arranged?

Maarten van der Heijden, Netherlands
I am not in favour of arranged marriages. Arranged marriages though have made up part of our European culture all the time, until the past century. It is only since then that other aspects became more important. Which of the royal marriages before 1920 was not arranged? Only an amazing arrogance and lack of historical background can result in a blunt ban on this form of marriage.
Maarten van der Heijden, Netherlands

Marriages freely and legally entered into are a personal choice not a government issue. Perhaps David Blunkett would like to reform marriage and family life in the same way he has brought his wisdom to HE and health and policing - just who is left for him to offend next?
Sue, UK

Does this debate about citizenship to imported spouses also apply to white British men who import brides from countries such as Thailand etc?
Anil, UK

I do not believe that David Blunkett is passing comment on arranged marriages but the practice of back door immigration. Many of these people moving to England after a marriage cannot speak English and make little or no attempt to integrate or contribute to British society but expect to receive all the benefits they are "entitled" to. Let these marriages take place, let these people come over but make it clear they will be entitled to nothing and have no electoral franchise until they have made tax contributions for a specified period of time.
Felicity, England

Other countries with similar populations have actually banned the practice of arranged marriages outside the country

Will, UK
I support David Blunkett. Frankly the arrange marriage system is often abused. To understand this you only have to look at newspapers in the sub continent and you will see marriage adverts asking for houses, so many lakhs of gold etc. It doesn't take an overtly suspicious mind to think that a British passport is also part of this bargaining position for family wealth in many instances.

Other countries with similar populations have actually banned the practice of arranged marriages outside the country, because of these abuses a long time ago. I welcome the home secretary's initiative in bringing up this issue. Many people have been increasingly upset with the practice and abuse of arranged marriages but have been constrained by not wishing to appear racist. For the future integration and stability of relationships between the different communities in Britain these matters need to be addressed.
Will, UK

I applaud David Blunkett it is about time politicians tackled this issue. I am sick of the bleeding heart liberals worrying about political correctness. If you live in this country you live by our laws or go home.
Jason, UK

Arranged marriage is not necessarily a social evil, but one has to be cautiously optimistic in organising such a marriage, of course with the genuine consent of both the bride and the groom. These practices are prevalent since ages in many Asian countries including India. There are definitely rules preventing forced marriages in any society, but very rarely the victims (mostly young girls) approach the legal authorities for protection. Sometimes, some NGOs take up individual cases to help prevent such occurrences, but a large number of the forced marriages go unreported.

All the same, Britain must have its own legislation to prevent forced marriages against the wishes of any individual. After all, those staying in Britain must be prepared to comply with the basic laws governing the state. Asian origin cannot and must not be allowed to become a license for those who would do anything to ignore human rights and endanger the lives of innocent young people.
Mahesh Chandra Somani, Finland

If the immigration policy is to be tackled you must look at the problem of arranged marriages. The system is being abused from all sides.
Mera Milenkovic, Britain

What about all these people who get married through the internet without knowing their partner?

Salim, UK
Here we go again blaming Muslims for arranged marriages. What about all these people who get married through the internet without knowing their partner? I've been to all these countries: Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Turkey and none of them have arranged marriages. I come from Algeria and I personally never come across such thing, also my mum divorced my dad about 25 years ago. I am a Muslim and proud of my three children who are Christians. Enough is enough of putting all the blame on Muslims.

For the record, not a long time ago Catholics were not allowed to become prime minister. And still today the future British king will only marry a woman who has a clean past (a virgin or someone with not many boyfriends) and certainly not a Catholic. I think it will be more appropriate that the government focuses on the serious issue on the dark side of the British society such as wife beating, getting drunk and terrorizing their family, or forcing their partner to have sex if they refuse they will get beaten. I personally know friends who are in these situations.
Salim, UK

It's very simple. If people move to another country and culture, then those people must abide by that country's laws and norms. If people do not wish to living according to British norms then they should not come here. The notion that British law and society should contort itself to cater to the traditions of immigrant groups is absurd, offensive and a racist dismissal of indigenous British values and traditions.
Michael Entill, UK

Arranged marriages are a scam, perpetrated to aid immigrants get access to live in this country. The sooner this loophole is shut the better.
Andy M, England

I think it's fair enough, as Mr Blunkett says, to have a discussion. There are too many taboos at the moment regarding race and culture. What is the point of a Parliament if it cannot have a debate about the issues that matter, contentious or otherwise?
Brendan Fernandes, UK

While the state has no business AT ALL in telling people how they should live, which includes how or who they should marry, it is right that the people that have to live within its scope are protected from force and the deprivation of their rights by others. Therefore the government should only be able to interfere in any way with FORCED marriages, which ignore the will of either or both of the intended spouses - which is an entirely different kettle of fish to an ordinary arranged marriage.
Paul, UK

One of my colleagues is a very happily married Hindu who chose an arranged marriage for no doubt excellent reasons of her own. I have no objection to the law taking a very firm interest in anybody who is being coerced or forced into marriage, but the means a person uses to meet their future partner is no business of anyone but theirs!
Jenny Radcliffe, UK

This is not about integration, it is about personal choice

Andy, London, UK
This is not about integration, it is about personal choice. What the home secretary is saying is that we in Britain will no longer tolerate forced arranged marriages. I am sure there will be some who will still want their marriages arranged - and good on them for wanting that. But no one should be forced by their family into an arranged marriage that they don't want. Blunkett has got it right - and the critics should really engage their brains before the open their mouths.
Andy, London, UK

There seems to be a lot of confusion between forced and arranged marriages. Forced marriages are where the parties involved have little or no choice in the matter and there is no true consent, subject to legal controls. However arranged marriages whether the introduction is by parents, extended family or dating agencies (which are effectively being paid to arrange suitable matches) should be outside of government influence, as long as the two parties consent. It may be that we need a clarification of the law to make clear on what informed consent is in relation to marriage.
Elizabeth, UK

Social integration is something that cannot be forced on people

Wahid Ezaty, Australia
Social integration is something that cannot be forced on people. I am sure those parents forcing their children to marry people of their liking will consider some of the actions of the "civil" members of our society as abhorrent and immoral. Islam, the religion which some Asians in the UK would like to identify themselves with, denounces arranged marriages and accords people the right to choose their own spouses. The UK government would do well to exploit this, and embark on an educational campaign aimed at penetrating this destructive social barrier that seems to be ruining the lives of all involved.
Wahid Ezaty, Australia

I believe the government should be involved. There are too many illegal immigrants coming into our country with this not being controlled. By the government keeping a close eye on this, our problems should be solved.
Mark Blackburn, Essex, UK

Basically, to help dissipate racial problems, Asian immigrants have to be seen to be making more effort to properly integrate. If they want to be assimilated into Britain, then they must make it abundantly clear to the rest of the indigenous population that they truly regard themselves as British first and foremost, and not as Indian or Pakistani etc. Many people, rightly or wrongly, will regard the continuation of a policy of arranging the majority of marriages with partners from the sub-continent as simply a way of increasing the immigrant numbers by the back door. If I were a British Muslim I would feel far happier marrying someone else who had grown up in the same environment as I had, and not someone with whom I shared little compatibility.
Shaun, Teignmouth UK

The inference is that courting couples should prepare to seek Home Office approval prior to making their wedding arrangements

Chris B, England
It must be Friday. Blunkett always finishes off his week with a spectacularly crackpot scheme. What's the slogan going to be: "Tough on marriage and tough on the causes of marriage"? The man's offensive. The inference is that courting couples should prepare to seek Home Office approval prior to making their wedding arrangements.
Chris B, England

This development is worrying. Consider the following contrasting situations. I go on holiday to Australia, marry an Australian lady and this is acceptable. I go on holiday to India, am 'introduced' to an Indian lady (as per local tradition) and agree to marry her, but this is unacceptable. A somewhat culturally offensive proposition seems to be in the pipeline.
Rahul Mahajan, UK

Well said Mr Blunkett. As always, the liberal masses will bleat about human rights, institutional racism, etc. We're saturated already with immigrants that have no interest in integrating with the British, so at least he's trying to stem the flow. I have seen arranged marriages with imported spouses be successful, but it is extremely open to abuse. Aid should be given for people wanting to marry a native Pakistani (for example) to assist them in a permanent move to Pakistan, not the other way round.
Steve, UK

Steve, UK, should I go back to France with my British wife and my British daughter in order to make more space for British people and desaturate the countries of immigrants?
Pascal Jacquemain, UK (French)

This makes the Tories quite an attractive socialist vote.
C J Hendrick, UK

The government shouldn't be involved in ANY marriages, arranged or otherwise

Pat Ward, UK
The government shouldn't be involved in ANY marriages, arranged or otherwise. Government should, as far as is possible, be kept out of people's bedrooms and private choices, whatever their race or religion.
Pat Ward, UK

Milena Buyum (NAAR) says that this suggestion would send a message saying "this is not part of the British norm" - well it isn't a normal British tradition to have an arranged marriage is it?
Wendy, UK

The Hindu community in the UK regularly has arranged marriages from within the country and are proud to have our future generations as coming from Britain. The term "Asians" has led many to believe that all immigrants from the Asian sub-continent send their children away for arranged marriages and then bring over the new spouse. While this may be common in the UK's Muslim community, it is the exception to the rule as far as Hindus are concerned. It is time a clear distinction was made by the politicians and the media between these two different communities.
Atul Patel, UK

When you live in another country you should respect its beliefs and cultures. In this country we believe that we should be free to marry who we want and no one should be forced to marry anyone they don't want to. I don't think the practice of arranged marriage should be tolerated in this country and the home secretary is wrong to even give tacit support to it. He should be doing all he can to stamp this practice out.
Tom, UK

Marriage is complicated enough without the government getting involved. They should concentrate on other issues such as our health industry.
Chris Gower, London, England

I applaud Blunkett for having the courage to stand up to the politically correct

Guy Hammond, England
There's an old saying, prevention is better than cure. I applaud Blunkett for having the courage to stand up to the politically correct to prevent abuses of British citizenship.
Guy Hammond, England

Will this nanny government ever be happy until they have control over every aspect of people's lives?
Linda, UK

It is worth stressing that only a MINORITY of Asian arranged marriages have problems. The vast majority don't, and in fact the divorce rate there is a great deal lower than the one-in-three divorce rate which happens in Western style marriages. Divorce is an option in Asian arranged marriages too, and it's not unknown for people to use that. However the point remains the vast majority of such marriages remain intact, often for their entire lives. More than can be said for the Western marriages.
Alex, UK

With most of the Islamic/Muslim arranged marriages being a key for more illegal people to enter into our country I think the government has every right to intervene. This has to be monitored and controlled.
Fraser Howse, Essex, England

I think arranged marriages are wrong in the first place and if you come to this country you should abide by the laws and customs of this country. The custom of this country is not one of arranged marriages. If you want to practice the customs of your country that are not lawfully binding in this country, then go back to your own country. The only reason I can see for the government to be interested in arranged marriages is because they have seen that our generation (I'm 25) is pretty much not interested in marriage due to the unfair laws surrounding it and the rising divorce rate.
Paul, England

David Blunkett, stop raising the racist temperature

Yadvinder Malhi, Scotland
I am shocked at the some of the comments I am reading here. "Live your life the way I live mine, or go 'back' to your own country" would not be out of place on a BNP leaflet.
Dear David Blunkett, as long as they are not violating basic human rights, let different cultures choose the own way to run their private lives, and stop raising the racist temperature in these tense times by bringing up issues that should be non-issues.
Yadvinder Malhi, Scotland

I think David Blunkett should keep his ideas and opinions to himself. What we do with our marriages is none of his or the Government's business.
Taljinder Lal, Leeds, UK

I've learnt to be very suspicious of anybody who begins a sentence by "I'm not racist, but..."

Nasir Nabi, Newcastle, UK
A person from one culture making pronouncements regarding another culture never works. It used to be regarded as Imperialism. There are very serious issues around the arranged marriage system, but I am afraid it will take people like myself to influence people in my culture. This follows on from his announcement of English tests for immigrants and highlighting school failure and muggings amongst black teenage boys. With each case the statements are accompanied by reassurances that there is no racist agenda, but when will the Home Secretary criticise publicly the drink culture of white Scottish people, or the promiscuity of white English people, or high levels of corporate crime amongst white stockbrokers? All of these comments would be offensive and rightly criticised in the media. As an Asian person brought up and educated in this country, I've learnt to be very suspicious of anybody who begins a sentence by "I'm not racist, but..."
Nasir Nabi, Newcastle, UK

Of course the UK Government should be involved. We live in a free and democratic society and arranged marriages certainly do not meet that criteria, no matter which religion is concerned.
Leon, UK

The issue of arranged marriages is a deeply contentious one. However, arranged marriages are against much of the British way of life. The idea that women should feel compelled to marry a particular man on the basis of their parents say so. Bearing in mind that immigrants are supposed to accept our society and become part of it, albeit with their own particular slant, they must stay within the law. Arranged marriages are not really within the law as a degree of coercion is implied. Therefore, immigrants should accept that if they wish to live in this country, arranged marriages must not occur. If they don't like this, they always have an option; return to their previous country.
Mike, England

Mr Blunkett appears to have gone out of his way to approach this subject as delicately as possible

Peter D, UK
How can asking for discussion on a subject be 'deeply offensive' in a free society? Unwillingness to discuss issues like this which ARE relevant to the nation as a whole as part of our immigration policy and as coerced marriages (as a minority of arranged marriages may be) are against our laws, simply gives ammunition to those critics who claim that these communities do not want to integrate. Mr Blunkett appears to have gone out of his way to approach this subject as delicately as possible; it is time for an equally accommodating response for everyone's good.
Peter D, UK

I do not think it is offensive of David Blunkett to say this - people should try and adopt the ways of the country they call home. And in this country we call home, the idea of arranged marriage is not a good one. However, in a bid to show tolerance and understanding to the situation, he has stated that if it does happen, and I am sure in some cases the people may be happy for it to happen, then the least they can do, is do it with consenting people living here in the UK- and not marrying off some poor teenage girl to someone she has never abroad.
Ed, UK

See also:

07 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Immigration shake-up unveiled
10 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Blair backs Blunkett on race
12 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Asian runaway bride story 'not racist'
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