"These things happen in families"
I have just read this item on Yahoo news. In response to Baroness Warsi saying forced marriages were an abhorrent act, home office minister Lord West of Spithead replied: "The difficulty is that these things happen in families.
We have taken a lot of advice and talked to many people. There is a feeling that the crime would go even further underground because people generally do not want to put their families through this.” He said that "because it was made a crime", the cases of domestic violence dropped from 814,000 in 1997 to 407,000 in 2006/7.
Does Lord West also think that domestic violence should be ignored because “these things happen in families”? Maybe he thinks the same consideration applies to the 102 women every year who are murdered by their partners. Is he truly saying that a crime isn’t a crime because it happens in a family context? The human rights of the victims of forced marriages are being abused by the very people who ought to be relied upon to protect those human rights – their families. That’s a double abuse. An abuse of human rights and an abuse of trust. Criminalising forced marriage is an inadequate answer of course.
Let’s draw a parallel with rape. Rape is a criminal offence but look at the appallingly low conviction rates and the degrading treatment of women who are brave enough to come forward to report it. What we need is a system that deals not only with the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity, but a system that deals with piecing the lives of victims back together and giving them emotional and practical support to become self-standing. Empowering young women and training Social Services to respond to their requests for help must go hand in hand in the government’s policy with the criminalisation of the families that put their children through this. There is no correlation as Lord West claims between decline in reported domestic violence crime and its creation as a criminal offence. ABH is a criminal offence, but the CPS routinely don’t take forward cases more than 6 months old of partners abusing their spouses. ABH against a partner is not necessarily classified by the police as a domestic violence crime, nor is rape.
Lord West should respond to this and explain his remarks.