I was reading a recent Sunday Times Spectrum Magazine and came across an article about “Love Commandos.” Far from “caste-ing” it aside it attracted my attention.
The Love Commandos are a voluntary organization in India which was set up by journalists and businessmen some three years ago. They operate from a small room in a congested neighbourhood in inner city New Delhi with no formal structure or operating budget and comprise a national network of volunteers who are united by a fierce frustration with the fact that resistance to love marriages remains pervasive in modernising India in every social and religious community, often leading to threats, mental or physical abuse and violence including “honour killings” or indeed suicides by young couples. In fact hundreds of murders a year are committed as a result of love marriages.
It seems that most problems occur when there is love across caste lines, but a difference of religion is a close second followed by a difference in economic or education level. On average the “Love Commandos” receive 300 calls a day from harried lovers. The group tries to provide couples disowned by their families and threatened by them , free shelter and support till they can stand on their own two feet.
Unfortunately, marrying the “wrong” person or not marrying the “right” person in the eyes of a young person’s family, can also be an issue here in the UK. For most women getting married, their wedding day is one of happiness. However, it is believed that annually around 8000 young women in the UK are forced into marriage against their will. In 2011, the UK’s Forced Marriage Unit revealed there were 1468 cases in Britain of young people asking for help or support relating to a forced marriage. Out of this figure 66 had a disability: 56 with a learning difficult and 8 who were physically disabled. The youngest the Unit helped was 5 years old and the oldest 87.
Scotland was the first country in the UK to legislate against forced marriage with The Forced Marriage etc (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act being passed by the Scottish Parliament on 22 March 2011. It reflects Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights whereby it is stated that “Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouse”.
The Act was passed to provide an individual with protection against threats, harassment or pressure to marry someone without their consent. A Forced Marriage Protection Order can be sought from the court to legally prevent anybody from forcing someone to marry against their will, or to keep the individual from harm if a forced marriage has already taken place. The Order can be adapted to meet the specific needs of an individual’s situation including restrictions or requirements to stop or change the behaviour of the person who is pressurising someone into marriage. A breach of the order could result in a prison sentence of up to two years.