Court stops Muslim girls ‘being sent abroad for marriage’
Two Muslim girls have been stopped from travelling abroad in what is thought to be the first case of its kind in Northern Ireland, after a judge feared they were being sent for forced marriages.
High Court judge Mr Justice Stephens, sitting in Belfast, imposed a forced marriage protection order for the girls aged 12 and 14.
Mr Justice Stephens ruled on behalf of the children, identified as G and D, after the authorities claimed false documents were produced as part of a planned deception by their parents.
An unnamed Trust alleged a claim the girls were to be sent for several years’ education in Pakistan was a pretext for the real motive.
The judge ended wardship orders previously granted for the children and instead decided that a forced marriage protection order should be issued.
He said: “I find as a fact that there is a present real and substantial risk that G and D will be forced by their parents to marry against their wishes.”
The children are described as being British, of Pakistani descent, and brought up in the Muslim faith.
Mr Justice Stephens, in a judgment which has just been made public, set out how the Trust claimed no arrangements had been made for their education.
It was alleged, partly based on previous forced marriages of the girls' two brothers in 2005, that once in Pakistan they were to be isolated, attended to and prepared for the same outcome.
The Trust also contended the parents either chose to ignore the distinction between a forced and an arranged marriage, or have no insight into the pressure applied in the past.
Wardship orders put in place to protect the girls in 2007 gave control for their care to the Trust, the judge pointed out.
In his ruling, he set out how many members of the extended family live in Pakistan.
The father was said to be suffering from a serious illness, while the mother gave evidence of her desire to bring up all of her children in accordance with proper ethical standards.
She and her family have endured racial hostility in the area in which they live, Mr Justice Stephens said.
He found the real reason G and D were to be sent to Pakistan in 2007 was “so that they could learn ‘respect' as an overarching filial duty which I hold in the context of this family means obedience overriding their full and free choice.”