Marlyn Glen MSP

Speech in the Scottish Parliament

2 February 2011

Forced Marriages 

I am pleased that the Forced Marriage etc (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Bill has at last come before Parliament, thereby allowing us to catch up with legislation in the rest of the UK, and that it will make a breach of an FMPO a criminal offence.

I understand the reservations that some witnesses have expressed about that move, but the most important thing is to send a strong signal that Scottish society does not condone forced marriage.

Such marriages have been described as low incidence but high impact, so the issue will not be easy to deal with, but we need to protect all our citizens, whatever their circumstances.

Moreover, it must be recognised that human rights cannot be seen to be diluted by culture.

Forced marriage is recognised as a specific manifestation of domestic abuse that can affect both men and women, although in most cases it will be young women and girls who are likely to be forced into marriage.

Given that evidence can come to light only after the victim complains of domestic abuseóand when, after further inquiry, it appears that there has, in fact, been a forced marriageóI welcome the fact that the legislation will help victims of forced marriages in the past.

As we have heard, there is broad agreement on the billís principles; that consensus will allow us to have a real discussion about the details.

Although amendments will be lodged at stage 2, they will be largely technical and will cover, for example, the billís definition of relevant third parties applying for a protection order and, as we have heard, its definition of force.

The committee report goes into a lot of detail, but I want to concentrate on one or two issues.

The definition of forced marriage that the Scottish Government uses is taken from the UK forced marriage unitís definition, which says:

"A forced marriage is a marriage in which one or both spouses do not (or, in the case of some adults with learning or physical disabilities cannot) consent to the marriage and duress is involved."

The report asks the minister to reconsider the use of that definition.

Committee members heard evidence of women being forced into marriage to act as carers for physically or mentally disabled spouses or to produce an heir.

The distress that is caused by such situations is hard to imagine.

There is no informed consent from either partner in those situations.

One may have been duped or coerced into the marriage, and the other may not have been capable of giving consent.

However, there need not necessarily be duress in the case of a person with learning difficulties, for example.

Such a person may not be able to give consent, so the marriage is forced.

The definition is not included in the bill, but it still needs to be reconsidered.

That scenario also makes me question the Law Society of Scotlandís suggestion that forced marriage protection orders should have a maximum time limit of five years, unless perhaps a review procedure is to be included.

Again, I am concerned about people with permanent learning disabilities.

If such people are unable to give consent, the passage of time will not change that fact.

A permanent FMPO would therefore be more appropriate in the circumstances.

I welcome the ministerís commitment to all the work that he outlined, and I look forward to hearing his response and to the further passage of this important bill.

 

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