Having just returned form Washington DC where she was discussing young Belgians involved in the Syrian struggle, and just before she heads off to Turkey this week for talks on Syria again Joelle Milquet the Vice Prime Minister and Interior Minister of Belgium stopped by the Botanique Building of the government services and the Secretary of State on equality Bruno De Lille's office to speak to Belgian journalists, alongside New Europe on the study these two jointly asked the University of Brussels to conduct.
On first look it is a study which showed that overall since 2007 there have been 17 forced marriages recorded and none since 2010…
But looking again the Vice Prime Minister asked the journalists present to have a closer look at the report given as indications show that a rise of these instances are coming.
Researcher Nawal Bensaid stood on one point of interest as well “now that the spotlight is fallign on this topic there are more people coming forward, even seeing cases of older women in marriages of 25 years etc coming forth, saying I was forced into that marriage,” the gamut is large it is only the topic that has taken a fresh view.
Previously, Milquet points out for immigration purposes people look to see if there is a 'fake marriage' or a marriage of convenience to be able ot obtain the right to live in Belgium but the question of whether this particular marriage was a violent act against the woman whether by culture or tradition but not of her own free will isn't a fragment of the puzzle the authorities were trained to deal with nor were concerned with.
“Part of our actions to be taken include educating the civil authorities at the communes responsible for the pre-marital dialogue that leads to a wedding, and also a new bill which has been submitted on 23 April which on Criminal charges gives anew the authority of a judge in a case to be able to annul a marriage,” these are the first steps Milquet says.
There will be others and the promotion of the topic as a societal one which seems to affect mostly the Morrocan and Turkish communities in Brussels is a sensitive one.
The trial which followed the murder of Saadia Sheikh who was killed by a family member having refused to marry as part of an arranged marriage has sparked the topic in Belgium and the response of the government is to look closer at it.
“If there is one bill that was passed when there was the famous impasse of the government in Belgium and that all sides agree on in Belgium, right, left, centre, Flemish, Francophone it's that violence against women is unacceptable and that it is a top priority for all, this continues in that vein”, Milquet said.
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