Sunday, December 25, 2011

Dealing with Forced Marriages

Pakistan joins the UK in taking the question of forced (not merely 'arranged') marriages seriously. However, unlike the UK which has a civil regime in place to protect people in danger of being forceably married (under the Forced Marriage Civil Protection Act 2007), Pakistan has preferred a criminalisation approach. The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2011 amends the Penal Code to add s 498B, which criminalises forced marriages. It also amends s 310A, which provides for punishment of anyone who compels a female into marriage in order to settle a civil dispute or criminal liability.

The women's movement in India has been surprisingly soft-spoken on the issue, while the queer rights movement in India has begun articulating its demand to deal with forced marriages. A sophisticated civil society debate on the extent of the problem and how best to deal with it is still to emerge. While there has been some movement towards the legal recognition of live-in relationships, I am not aware of any evidence that the Indian state even considers forced marriages a serious issue.
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