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Judge attacks forced marriage that put disabled woman 'at risk’
A judge has said the forced marriage of a Muslim woman with learning difficulties should be annulled and condemned the “insulated” families who arrange them. Mrs Justice Parker also criticised doctors and social workers for failing to raise the alarm when the woman was sent to Bangladesh to be married to a cousin, which allowed him to settle in England.
She said video of the wedding ceremony showed the bride (refered to as DD) was “almost comatose” and needed help to repeat vows she did not understand, while her relatives had made “false and misleading” statements about her condition.
And the judge brushed aside claims by the woman’s parents that having her marriage annulled would bring shame upon their family, in a case that was even considered at by the Government’s most senior lawyer, the Attorney General. . . the judge ruled that the woman’s foreign marriage should not be recognised as valid in England. She also declared it would be in the woman’s “best interests” for a nullity application to be issued.
“In my view it is the duty of a doctor or other health or social work professional who becomes aware that an incapacitated person may undergo a marriage abroad, to notify the learning disabilities team of Social Services and/or the Forced Marriage Unit if information comes to light that there are plans for an overseas marriage of a patient who has or may lack capacity.
“The communities where this is likely to happen also need to be told, loud and clear, that if a person, whether male or female, enters into a marriage when they do not have the capacity to understand what marriage is, its nature and duties, or its consequences, or to understand sexual relations, that that marriage may not be recognised, that sexual relations will constitute a criminal offence, and that the courts have the power to intervene.”
The judge said the council has “accepted its failures” while the woman’s GP had not raised concerns despite being asked on at least three occasions about “marriage and pregnancy”. He is probably a Muslim himself.
At a hearing in 2010 the judge ruled, “in the face of very strong resistance” from relatives, that DD lacked the capacity to marry or consent to sex and that it was unlawful for her husband to have intercourse with her. Although I suspect it was the UK spousal visa that was the biggest attraction.
Evidence was then considered as to whether or not the marriage should be annulled, leading to the latest ruling.