Two more things on this topic. One, I’ve belatedly discovered that UKBA released a draft version of the research report covered previously on this blog. The final version is in fact a more polished piece of work. One can only assume that UKBA deliberately released the less polished version in order to undermine it somehow.
Secondly, an interesting article has been published in the journal Feminist Legal Studies on age as a risk factor in forced marriages. I’m not normally an avid reader of this journal, I admit, but the article is well worth reading if you are interested in the subject. The authors are two of the researchers commissioned by the Home Office for the suppressed report. It’s an academic piece but here are just some of the interesting ideas raised:
1. Forced marriage should be seen as a species of domestic violence. Age would never usually be said to be a risk factor in other types of domestic violence cases as it is accepted that women of all ages can be victims. Why is this reasoning not applied to forced marriage cases, where there is evidence to suggest that applies equally?
2. The increase in the spouse visa age is based on the ‘common sense’ presumption that with age comes ‘maturity’ and independence. However, maturity is a cultural concept. For example, in many Asian families moving away from parents is not considered to be a sign of maturity but of something dysfunctional.
3. One perceived benefit of the visa age increase was allowing young people to complete their education. This ignores several considerations, including that marriage and education are not mutually exclusive, lots of people do not pursue higher education but will still not be able to live with their spouses in the UK.
4. The change has a disproportionate effect on minority communities and reinforces racist stereotypes. In short, it is discriminatory.
These are just a few points I’ve taken away from the article, though. As I said, I’d recommend reading it yourself.