Banning forced marriages would prohibit shotgun weddings, which need reviving to help taxpayers

The headline-grabbing antics of ethnic women’s groups got Alf in a right tizz this morning.

The buggers are lobbying the Government to pass legislation against forced marriages. claiming that escalating numbers 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.

Calls to Shakti’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.

Alf has every sympathy with the notion that under-age girls should be protected by the law.

But they are protected already.

What could a new law do that the current law can’t do to deal with offences committed within “honour-based” forced relationships, eh?

These examples 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, Ms Radhakrishnan said.

Rape is rape is rape.

The cops can handle that one without having to consult their law books for something on forced marriages.

And the last time Alf looked, you had to be aged 18 to get married in this country, or 16 if you had parental consent.

So the marriage in this example was illegal, anyway.

It simply remained for someone to show a bit of gumption and do something about the offences cited.

Two more examples are provided –

* A woman who came to New Zealand at 16 with an arranged husband who extorted more than $60,000 in dowry from her family, and physically and sexually abused her daily. She eventually escaped after she tried to drown herself and was referred to Shakti by police.

But a new marriage law would not prevent a marriage that took place overseas, and the other matters mentioned are crimes that simply require reporting to the police for investigation.

* A woman who had to take a protection order out against her family, after they threatened her with an “honour killing” when she refused to go to Afghanistan at the age of 16 and marry her chosen husband, a relative. Now 18, she has no contact with her family.

But this only demonstrates that women already can ask for and get the protection afforded by a protection order. And what contact would she want to have with a family that threatens to kill her?

But these ethnic women have more to say on the matter –

“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.

Rape is an offence, whether it is committed in marriage or not.

So that takes care of that issue.

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.

Alternatively, of course, a girl who is threatened with being forced into marriage could simply bugger off and go live somewhere else.

Justice and electoral select committee chairman Chester Borrows has been persuaded to look into these concerns and into claims that illegal marriages are happening in New Zealand under ethnic or cultural auspices. He says –

“We want to make sure that because there are cultural differences, people who are at risk are not overlooked … there needs to be some recognition that with the changing face of New Zealand, this is happening.”

A report on the petition, issued by the committee in November, is being considered by Justice Minister Simon Power. A spokesman for Mr Power said he was working on a response, and would take any recommendations to the Cabinet.

Alf’s big problem is that he actually favours forced marriages, in some circumstances.

When he was a youth, a few of his mates were guilty of getting a sheila up the duff and finding themselves involved in the highly respectable institution known as a shotgun marriage.

Mrs Grumble dug up a bit of research on the matter from a government website –

Teen marriages were relatively uncommon in the 2000s, yet in 1971 one in three marriages involved teenage women. Many of these were ‘shotgun weddings’, where the couple married due to pregnancy. In the 19th century and through most of the 20th century, teenage pregnancy outside of marriage generated moral disapproval. Children born to unmarried mothers were defined as ‘illegitimate’, and were often adopted out.

From the 1960s, more teenage mothers began keeping their babies, and attitudes changed. In the 2000s teen pregnancy was seen more as a socio-economic problem leading to a cycle of poverty and welfare dependency than a moral issue. When compared with other developed countries, New Zealand’s teen pregnancy rate in 2006 was second only to that of the United States. The rate for Māori women was considerably higher than for Pākehā. The abortion rate for teenagers doubled between 1980 and 2001, but the teenage pregnancy rate overall remained about the same.

The thing is that these randy teenage mothers leave Alf and other taxpayers to pick up the tab.

Lindsay Mitchell has had much to say about the outrage of the domestic purposes benefit and the way it promotes fecundity.

“In 1971, just before the DPB was introduced, the percentage of births to unmarried mothers was 14. It is now 42 percent. In 1971 eighty three percent of the children born out of wedlock (2,700), were adopted out. By 2002, total adoptions from within and overseas had fallen to 600.”

“Clearly there now exists an acceptance that it is okay for the stranger, the taxpayer, to take financial responsibility for a child’s upbringing but it is less than ideal to allow a couple, with the means and desire, to take that same responsibility.”

“Before the DPB there were far more shotgun marriages. Now, with the sometimes terrible social consequences of fatherlessness and welfare dependency, it would seem that all we have done is exchange one ill for another far worse.”

Can’t say it better than that.

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