Kallar Saidan, Pakistan (AP) – Britain’s foreign secretary told Pakistanis Wednesday that forced marriages are wrong, a day after a British law took effect to prevent the practice.
Forced marriages are prevalent between female British citizens of Pakistani descent
and Pakistani men. Typically, they take place in Pakistan after the woman is told by
family that she is traveling to Pakistan to see relatives.
In the first nine months of 2008, Britain’s Forced Marriage Unit handled more than 1,300 cases.
The unit said that nearly 85 percent of the cases had female victims, and the majority involved families of Pakistani, Indian, and Bangladeshi descent. About half involved minors.
“There are too many cases of girls being brought here, often at a very young age, and being forced into a marriage they do not want,” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told community leaders in the town of Kallar Saidan, about an hour’s drive out of the capital, Islamabad.
He stressed that the law was not aimed at preventing arranged marriages.
Forced marriage differs from arranged marriage in that either the bride, groom, or both do not consent. In arranged marriages, families suggest suitable candidates but both parties must agree to the wedding.
“This is not about Western legislation on one hand and Pakistani cultural traditions on the other,” he said.