We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to protecting human rights through legislation (your report, 1 October).
By making forced marriage a criminal offence, the government recognises the devastating impact it has, particularly on women and girls; denying them their human rights and placing them at further risk of physical, emotional and sexual violence.
Despite this progressive law, we all have a responsibility to be vigilant in preventing forced marriage – it can and does happen on our doorsteps.
Forced marriage discriminates equally against women, girls and men. There is also evidence of LGBTI and disabled people being forced to marry to protect “family honour”. People at risk of forced marriage face huge stress and often suffer physical, emotional or sexual abuse from those who seek to pressure them into marrying.
Cabinet secretary for equalities Shona Robison stated this legislation “demonstrates Scotland’s unequivocal opposition to forced marriage to countries where this is prevalent”, and indeed we should be looking beyond our borders when it comes to human rights abuses.
There are many countries where forced marriage is routinely used as a weapon of sexual violence against women and girls. In Algeria and Tunisia, the law allows rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their teenage victims. Morocco only amended a similar law in January following an Amnesty International campaign after the death in 2012 of 16-year-old Amina Filali, who swallowed rat poison after being forced to marry the man she said had raped her.
In Afghanistan, women and girls face widespread human rights abuses including abduction, rape and trafficking. More than 87 per cent of Afghan women suffer from domestic abuse, according to the UN, and between 60 and 80 per cent of marriages are forced.
Amnesty International Scotland
St Andrew Square