Anti ‘honour-based’ marriage law sought in New Zealand

Saturday, January 29, 2011

AUCKLAND - Various ethnic women groups in New Zealand have urged the government to make a law which can prevent forced marriages, as an escalating number of high-risk young victims are coming forward to seek help.

Shakti, which runs refuges for Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern women in New Zealand, has joined with Pacific Women’s Watch and 46 others to petition Parliament to outlaw forced underage marriages which, they say, put young girls in situations that can lead to horrendous physical and sexual abuse, reported The Dominion Post Friday.

Calls to Shakti, the women support group’s crisis line have risen to 350 calls a month since July 2010, when they averaged 250 a month.

Among these are many young girls and though more are coming forward, there would be others who are too fearful, Priyanca Radhakrishnan of the Shakti Community Council says.

Examples of “honour-based” forced relationships included a 14-year-old who was raped and told by her parents she was “sullied goods” before being made to marry her rapist. Other girls had been threatened with death if they don’t agree to an arranged marriage, or were forced into marriage because their parents find out they have a boyfriend or think they dress inappropriately, Radhakrishnan said.

“Domestic violence in general and honour-based violence in specific is a reality for a number of women and we have first-hand experience of this and should not be ignored. Violence to a large extent has been normalised in the home country. Many times rape within a marriage isn’t even considered, because the idea is once you’re married to your husband you are his property.”

But forced relationships were an abuse of human rights, which should be illegal in New Zealand, she said.

The petition asks the Government to introduce legislation similar to the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act introduced in Britain in 2007. This would include raising the legal marriage age to 18, penalising accomplices to forced marriage, and allow the courts to issue forced-marriage protection orders.

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