Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation welcomes new law making forced marriage a criminal offence

On Monday, 16 June 2014, forced marriage becomes a self-standing criminal offence in England and Wales and in Scotland punishable by up to 7 years in prison. At the same time, in England and Wales it also becomes a criminal offence to breach a Forced Marriage Protection Order, in line with Scotland where this is already the case.

The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO), which represents women and girls from Middle Eastern, North African and Afghan communities, has been at the forefront of the campaign to criminalise Forced Marriage across the UK over the last decade, is celebrating this crucial step forward in the movement to end forced marriage.

Diana Nammi, founder and Executive Director of IKWRO says;

We have campaigned long and hard for the criminalisation of forced marriage, which equates to slavery, for a number of years because this is what the women that we represent tell us they want. Criminalisation makes it absolutely clear to everyone that forced marriage is not tolerated in the UK. The absence of a specific criminal offence thus far has undermined the movement to end forced marriage. Criminalisation is a crucial deterrent; many of our clients have told us that if forced marriage had been criminalised when they were facing it, their families may not have gone ahead with it because they would have abided by the law.

The women and girls that we work with say that they want to know that the law is clearly on their side and that forced marriage is explicitly illegal. Those who have experienced forced marriage tell us that if they had been confident that the law was on their side when they were facing forced marriage, they would have felt empowered to seek help.

Some say that criminalisation will force the issue underground. But it is already a hidden issue and we must continue to work hard to change this. IKWRO are doing this, by working in schools and colleges. We are training all staff through inset says, influencing students who may be potential victims, perpetrators or have influence to prevent forced marriage of others, and we are reaching parents through school coffee mornings. But to ensure that everyone can be reached we need the government to get on board by making whole school education on this issue compulsory. We must see commitment from the Department of Education to ensure that the statutory guidelines on forced marriage and ‘honour’ based violence are embedded into safeguarding strategies, structures and procedures for all schools and colleges and for effective ongoing monitoring by Ofsted.

Our colleagues in Denmark at a charity called LOKK, tell us that since 2008 when forced marriage became a criminal offence there, the numbers of young people and professionals seeking help around the issue of forced marriage have soared. The same is already happening here in the UK; since the intention to criminalise forced marriage was announced by David Cameron on 8th June 2012, reporting has almost doubled. The same arguments were raised against criminalising marital rape but far from going underground, reporting has increased four-fold’.

With the new specific offence the law will be much clearer. It will be easier to for those at risk and also for people who have influence to prevent a forced marriage to tell perpetrators about. Criminalisation will also make it crystal clear to front-line professionals, such as teachers and social workers, that forced marriage is a serious safeguarding issue and that they must take action to ensure anyone at risk is safe. So now those at risk will be able have confidence that they will be taken seriously.

Some people have said that criminalising forced marriage will intensify negativity towards minority communities. IKWRO has repeatedly heard this argument made about all of our work raising awareness on all forms of ‘honour’ based violence. We have been told to be quiet about all negative issues within our communities. But we strongly disagree. We both represent and are largely made up of minority women and we must at the same time expose human rights abuses and fight racism; the two are not mutually exclusive. We believe that staying silent about human rights abuses faced by women and girls from minority communities is racist. By turning our back and allowing harmful practices such as forced marriage to continue unchallenged, we actually leave the community to face stigmatisation and discrimination. We must prioritise the safety of minority women and girls, we must protect their universal human rights and fight for equality.

Not only does criminalisation send a clear message within the UK, it also sends a clear message internationally, which is important because forced marriage is a global human rights issue.

Changing the law is a crucial step in the movement, but this alone will not end forced marriage. I call upon the government to implement a national strategy plan to address forced marriage. The plan must ensure:

    a) Effective training for all professionals working with the public, including the police, judges, health professionals and social services.

    b) Whole school education for students and all staff.

    c) Monitoring of prolonged absences by students and students not returning from holidays.

    d) That affected communities, including both potential perpetrators and potential victims are made aware of the changes in the law.

    e) A victim/survivor focussed approach to ensure they are fully protected and supported.

    f) Access to public funds for victims/ survivors.

    g) Provision within immigration law and procedures to permanently protect victims/survivors.

    h) Access to justice through legal aid for victims/survivors.

    i) Sustainable funding for specialist support organisations like IKWRO and for refuges.

Press Release at http://ikwro.org.uk/2014/06/welcomes-marriage-criminal/#more-2119

June 17, 2014

Survivors’ Guide to the Scottish Justice System – Rape Crisis Scotland

Rape Crisis Scotland has produced a new DVD resource aimed at explaining the criminal justice process for survivors of sexual violence.

Sexual crimes continue to figure among those with the lowest reporting rates and survivors face many barriers when considering whether or not to take this step, including fears around what will happen if they do. Of survivors seeking support from rape crisis centres only a small proportion have reported what happened to police.

The new DVD (entitled ‘Survivors’ Guide to the Scottish Justice System’) is intended to help anyone who is thinking about reporting a sexual crime or who has already reported. The DVD offers an overview of how to report and includes a series of interviews with key professionals including a SOLO officer, a forensic examiner, a prosecutor, a defence lawyer, and the Lord Advocate.

These first-hand accounts explain in detail what reporting a sexual crime and the subsequent investigation and trial can involve at every step of the journey and Rape Crisis Scotland hopes that this new resource will help survivors to feel better informed when they are making the decision about whether or not to report, and (for those who have already reported) as their cases progress.

The DVD includes options for voiceover translations into 6 community languages and English subtitles for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing.

For more information, or to receive a copy of the DVD, please email info@rapecrisisscotland.org.uk.

Source http://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/news/survivors-guide-to-the-scottish-justice-system/

June 17, 2014

12 July 2014 13:00 ~ Mothers Against Violence 6th Making Children and Young People Matter – Manchester

Until 19:00 at Piccadilly Gardens, Piccadilly, M1 1RG

ECM: MAKE A POSITIVE CONTRIBUTION!

Mothers Against Violence 6th annual event Making Children and Young People Matter returns to Piccadilly Gardens this July 2014. Those who attended last year saw the event theme based on “Achieving Economic Well-being” and young people performed and displayed positive talents. We were blessed with great weather, an amazing turnout and fabulous local artists. This year promises to be bigger and even better!

The theme for this year’s event is Make a Positive Contribution in your local community, country and nation. We are so excited to be returning to Piccadilly Gardens and have an amazing line-up this year and have been working really hard to pull this together, we will continue to do so over the next few months: THE COUNTDOWN IS ON!

We are looking for schools, community groups and individuals to Make a Positive Contribution and come along!

Please regularly check out our website, Twitter and Facebook pages for updates on the event!

MAKING CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE MATTER 2014!!
Piccadilly Gardens
12th July 2014
1pm – 7pm

NO VIOLENCE JUST PEACE

Check for updates at https://www.facebook.com/events/259917584177740/

Mothers Against Violence are asking for volunteers to help out – see their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MAVUK

June 13, 2014

The Law Society backs legal challenge by Rights of Women to restore access to legal aid for victims of domestic violence

The Law Society is supporting a challenge brought by the Public Law Project on behalf of Rights of Women, over the lawfulness of Government changes to legal aid which are preventing victims of domestic abuse from getting legal aid for family cases, even when it is clear there has been violence, or there is an ongoing risk of violence. Rights of Women argue that this is not what parliament intended.

Legal aid changes, introduced by the Government in April 2013 include regulations which set out what evidence victims of domestic violence have to provide. This evidence can be extremely difficult for many people to get and in many cases is subject to a 24 month time limit – although perpetrators may remain a life long threat to their victims.

Legal aid is a lifeline for victims of abuse, enabling them to escape from abusive relationships, protect their children, and manage their financial situations. Access to justice is vital in these cases – the statistics are stark; two women are killed each week by a current or former partner and 500 recent victims of domestic violence commit suicide every year.

Emma Scott, Director of Rights of Women, said: “Without legal aid women affected by domestic violence feel unable to access the kinds of legal remedies which enable them to safely exit violent relationships. In our most recent survey, half of all women who were ineligible for legal aid because they did not have the required evidence of domestic violence said that they took no legal action as a result, leaving them at risk of further violence and even death. This legal action is taken on behalf of those women in order to hold the government to account on their promise to continue to make family law legal aid available to victims of domestic violence.”

Law Society President Nicholas Fluck said: “The LASPO legal aid cuts have resulted in radical consequences for access to justice with the worst impact affecting the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of society. It is vital that survivors of domestic abuse can bring evidence to satisfy the broader statutory meaning of domestic violence, not the over-strict tests required by the regulations as they now stand. Survivors should not be excluded from accessing legal aid for family law disputes against an abusive ex partner or relative.”
____________________________________________________________
Notes

    Counsel in this case are Zoe Leventhal and Nathalie Lieven of Landmark Chambers

    The Public Law Project (PLP)
    PLP is an independent, national legal charity which aims to improve access to justice for those whose access is restricted by poverty, discrimination or other similar barriers. To fulfil its objectives PLP undertakes research, policy initiatives, casework and training across the range of public law remedies.

    Rights of Women
    Rights of Women is a registered charity that provides free legal advice to women and engages on a policy level concerning access to justice and violence against women issues. We provide training on legal issues to statutory and third sector professionals, write legal publications designed to assist individual women, and those supporting them, through the law and provide three legal advice lines offering legal advice to women on immigration and asylum issues, sexual violence and criminal law, and family law (including domestic violence, divorce, contact disputes). Our advice lines are staffed by qualified practising women solicitors and barristers. More information about our work can be found at www.rightsofwomen.org.uk

    About the Law Society
    The Law Society is the independent professional body, established for solicitors in 1825, that works globally to support and represent its members, promoting the highest professional standards and the rule of law.

June 10, 2014

21 June 2014 12:00 ~ Women and the Miners’ Strike – Feminist Library – London

Saturday 21 June from 12pm – 8pm
The Feminist Library, 5 Westminster Bridge Rd, London SE1 7XW.

Exhibition in the Library – All Day:

Artefacts documenting women’s activism in the Miners’ Strike, presented alongside contemporary artwork. Curated by Megan Pickering (meganpickering.tumblr.com) featuring original work by Jessica Scott (http://jessica-scott.com/)

12-1.30pm Storytelling Workshop: Fiction from Fact, with Laura Wilkinson
This workshop will consider different approaches to writing fiction (short stories and novels) inspired by real life events using a range of images and ideas. Suitable for all levels and experience. Come ready to write.

Alongside writing fiction, Laura works as an editor for Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. Laura has facilitated creative writing workshops at Spit Lit, The Women’s Library at London Metropolitan University and at the Museum of London in Docklands, amongst others. She has published short stories in magazines, digital media and anthologies, and three novels, with another scheduled for publication this year. Her latest novel, Public Battles, Private Wars, (Accent Press, March 2014) is the story of a young miner’s wife set against the backdrop of the 1984/85 strike. Find Laura on Twitter: @ScorpioScribble or see laura-wilkinson.co.uk

Places limited – please RSVP to bookshop@feministlibrary.co.uk

Fee £10 (if you have trouble attending because of the fee, please contact us so that we can discuss arranging a subsidy)

1.30-2.30pm Lunch break – please bring a packed lunch

2.30 – 4pm Literature of the Miners’ Strike: where are the women?

Women were key activists during the 1984/85 UK dispute, yet their voices remain marginal in popular representations of the strike. Dr Katy Shaw, a leading authority on the literature of the Miners’ Strike, in conversation with Laura Wilkinson, author of Public Battles, Private Wars, explore women’s crucial involvement in the events of 1984/5 and the role now played by the strike in modern fiction.

4pm-4.30pm Refreshment Break – Tea, real coffee and cakes (inc. vegan and GF options) available for modest donations.

4.30-6pm Recording Experiences of the Strike – Documentary and Oral History

A session considering the experiences women had in the strike (and its aftermath) – how did it change lives and communities? Did these changes last, and what can we take from them today? – as well as thinking about the different ways these experiences are recorded.

We will be screening “Not Just Tea and Sandwiches,” a short documentary from “The Miners’ Campaign Tapes”, as well as being joined by Rachel Kirk of One For All Productions, creators of contemporary oral history project “Holes in Tights”:

An oral history project recording the experiences and memories of North East Women involved in and/or affected by the 1984 Miner’s Strike. From the stories and anecdotes collected One For All Productions will be creating a play to be performed in the North East Coalfield communities, giving recognition to the role women played, the impact and consequences that year had on their lives and their community at large, with reference to Britain 2014.

6 – 8pm Group Meal and Discussion

We discuss reflections on the day as a group, as well as considering what we can take from the various sessions, and how they might relate to our communities today. Hot food with vegan and GF options will be provided for donations, and we hope to be joined by friends of the Library with memories of the strike and involvement in community organizing.

Check for updates at http://feministlibrary.co.uk/2014/05/21st-june-women-of-the-miners-strike/

June 10, 2014