Sunday, April 06, 2008

Forced data on forced marriage

There's been a bit of debate about forced marriages in Bradford recently. Hold on to your hats.

The government is consulting on various aspects of the Forced Marriage Act at present. The Daily Mail reported on 11 March that more than 3,000 Asian children were missing from school and 'forced into Asian marriages' (sic). The article states the following:

'The study followed revelations last week that 33 girls were missing from schools in Bradford despite extensive efforts to locate them, amid fears that they were pressured into marriages abroad'.

This follows on a from a previous Daily Mail article which reported on Kevin Brennan's (who is Children's Minister) presentation to the Home Affairs Select Committee which is currently running an enquiry into Domestic Violence. Last week, representatives from Bradford Council and Education Bradford were asked to appear before the committee. They explained to the committee that the figures if broken down by ethnicity and gender meant that that there are major concerns about the numbers supplied by the Children's Minister. The uncorrected transcript (you have to scroll down) makes for fascinating reading. The committee heard that of the 33 pupils mentioned, there were no secondary school Asian girls and one secondary school Asian boy on the missing register. There is now an investigation underway into how information that supports prejudice against a community has made its way into the media. Philip Balmforth, the police's support worker, is currently being investigated by West Yorkshire Police. Previously, there have been suggestions that there are between 170 and 400 cases of forced marriage per year in Bradford. Though the Home Affairs Select Committee heard that there has actually been one a year for the last three years. My only question is (apart from what the heck is going on?), whatever strategy the government adopts, how useful will it be without the community on board?