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Tuesday, 16 January, 2001, 13:23 GMT
Police act on forced marriages
Asian women
The number of women forced into marriage is rising
The Foreign Office is funding a major project to prevent forced marriages by developing links between police forces in Britain and their counterparts in the Indian sub-continent.

The project is part of a 200,000 programme to tackle forced marriages funded jointly by the Foreign Office and the Home Office.

Strategies are being worked out at a three-day conference in Bradford bringing together representatives from 10 UK police forces, the Pakistani Government, the Foreign Office and community groups.

The conference was opened by the Foreign Office minister, Baroness Scotland, who said it was an important step in reducing the number of forced marriages.
Baroness Scotland
Baroness Scotland: "More must be done"

"Our record in helping victims of forced marriage has improved dramatically and we have had some great success stories.

"But there is still a lot of work to do to build up a network of skilled people, here and overseas, to help the increasing numbers of victims turning to us for help," she said.

The conference, said to be the first of its kind, follows the publication of a Home Office report into forced marriages last year.

It recommended that such marriages be treated like domestic violence or child abuse and called on the police to do more to stop them.

Links

Five police forces in areas across the UK with a large Asian population will be taking part in the three-year project.

One of them is the West Yorkshire police force which has set up a police community liaison group to deal with suspected cases of forced marriages.

Forces in the project
Leicestershire
Lothian and Borders
Metropolitan
West Midlands
West Yorkshire

The area's Assistant Chief Constable, Steve Smith, said they had taken a pioneering attitude when dealing with the issue.

"We have already established excellent links at home and abroad. There has been a lot of hard work undertaken in West Yorkshire and we now seek to share our experience and learn from others.

"This conference will be a valuable means of increasing the cooperation, sensitivity and understanding needed to tackle problems in connection with forced marriages," he said.

"Time for a re-think"

Hannana Siddiqi, of Southall Black Sisters, one of the community groups invited to attend the conference, said her organisation dealt with around 200 cases of forced marriage per year.

Hannana Siddiqi
Hannana Siddiqi: "Police need to take issue more seriously"
She added that nationally there were thought to be 1,000 cases per year but many went undetected.

Miss Siddiqi believed the procedures of many police forces when dealing with forced marriages were in need of a re-think.

"The British police have not taken the matter seriously, or taken women back home. They often don't know what they can do.

"Abroad local police can't be trusted to help women forced into marriage, they are often corrupt," she said.

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See also:

05 Aug 99 | UK Politics
Forced marriage clampdown welcomed
16 Aug 99 | UK
Forced into wedlock
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