In Europe and other Western Democracies the political and social status of women is anchored in law – the right of every adult person to make his own choice when it comes to private matters such as marriage, having children, sexual preference and etc. The integration of women and their skills in all domains of life is one of the reasons to the fast economical development of the Western Countries.
The large emigration of Muslims to Europe challenges, severely, the equality of women in the society. Although many Muslim women prefer, by their own choice, to wear a veil, many others are compelled under pressure of their social circle. The phenomena are mainly felt in Islamic ghettos in the suburbs of the big European cities. The encounters with the other genders in the teens and later, is under strict family and relatives supervision and might end with “Honor killing” of Muslim women if they are suspected to be too ‘liberal’ or meeting with the wrong man. When it comes to sex, family life or work places the Muslim women are strictly limited in their choices.
The issue of forced marriages, (to be distinguished from arranged marriage, which are a sort of match making), especially of young teenagers in the years 12-18, has been traditionally treated with hesitation by the governments, for fear of offending cultural sensitivities. In UK a special Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is operating in the Welfare ministry. The existence of such a unit is an indication to the scale of the problem.
In UK, in areas with large Muslim Pakistani population, the phenomena of young girls suddenly missing from schools and later it was revealed that they were sent abroad, mainly to Pakistan, to be forced to marry a suitable relative, numbers as high as 4,000 a year. For example – Bradford City Council had lost track of 205 youngsters aged under 16! from its schools rolls in 2007. In following inquiries 172 were tracked down – but 33 were left unaccounted for.
Although most of the forced marriage cases are hushed up by the family and relatives, the government investigates 300 forced marriage cases reported a year, including about 70 overseas rescue operations outside the UK, in Islamic countries.
Not surprisingly the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, provoked a public debate when he suggested, on 02/11/2008, that some aspects of Shariaa law in Britain were unavoidable.
UK is now in a Cultural Conflict whether the country has one rule applied equally to everybody or the kingdom became a society with two sets of rules and welfare policy -one for Non Muslims and the other for the Muslims.
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