Is the UK Legal System Supporting Child Marriage?

(Illustrative Photo: Clarion Project)
(Illustrative photo: Clarion Project)

Child and forced marriage is alive and well in the UK, in part being supported and encouraged by legal authorities and government officials.

Undercover filming by a reporter of a Muslim woman immigration lawyer by The Times shows the lawyer explaining to the reporter how to circumvent the law in the case of his “18-year-old daughter” whom the reporter said he sent to Pakistan to marry as well as his “15-year-old daughter” for whom he said he was planning a marriage.

The reporter was speaking to Asama Javed, whom The Times describes as an “influential figure” in Asian communities. Javed, 44, is a lawyer as well as on the board of directors at an elementary school. She was elected to the city council in Bradford before resigning to run for parliament.

The reporter tells Javed he wants to bring the 18-year old and her husband back to the UK. After learning that the 18-year old is pregnant, unhappy and wants to return to the UK without her husband, Javed warns the reporter not to apply for a spousal visa for his son-in-law.

“I don’t know how clever she is or isn’t, who she might tell and who she might not tell,” Javed said. “If a third party calls and says, ‘This is fraud, she’s not happy’ — that she has been forced — everybody will be in trouble. The boy will get into trouble. You will also be in trouble and your whole family will be in trouble.”

Instead, Javad advises to bring back his daughter, “bribe” and “spoil” her” and “get her on your side emotionally.” Then after the baby is born, Javad advises that the husband should enter to UK as the father of the child. That way, she says, “your daughter doesn’t need to sign.”

However, this strategy is against the law in the UK. A foreign parent can apply for a visa if their child is under 18 and a British citizen. However, they can only do this if they are not eligible for a spousal visa.

Forced marriage is illegal in the UK. Even encouraging or assisting someone who is engaged in forcing a marriage is illegal.

Still, for British teenagers who have been forced to marry abroad, The Times learned that the Home Office “’turns a blind eye‘ by handing visas to their husbands.”

“Officials received dozens of reports last year that women wanted to block visas for men they had been made to marry in countries including Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates. In almost half of their cases the visas were approved, records show,” the paper reported.

 

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