A young woman who was held captive and forcibly married will talk about her experience during the PACE session

Strasbourg, 23.04.2009 – Humayra Abedin, a doctor who was born in Bangladesh and is working in the United Kingdom, will give a press conference in Room 1 at 11.00 am on Tuesday 28 April, on the fringes of the spring session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). This press conference will be broadcast live on the Assembly’s website at http://tv.coe.int/internet/press.html. Accompanied by her lawyer, Anne-Marie Hutchinson, Dr Abedin will describe being held captive in Bangladesh by her family and forced to marry, and the happy ending to this affair, thanks to the new legislation on forced marriages adopted by the United Kingdom in 2007.[1]

Her courageous account will draw attention to the situation of many women and girls in Europe who are faced with forced marriages, sexual mutilation or other practices that are incompatible with human rights, particularly when the women in question are returned to their country of origin and find themselves isolated, without any legal protection or any possibility of returning to their usual country of residence.
The press conference, during which Humayra Abedin will give an account of her experience, will take place prior to the parliamentary debate based on the report by Antigoni Papadopoulos (Cyprus, ALDE) on the need to take action to combat gender-based human rights violations, including abduction of women and girls.
In the draft resolution, which should be adopted next Tuesday, PACE calls on the Council of Europe to implement effective measures to protect victims and prevent practices contrary to human rights (such as forced marriages or sexual mutilation), including when they are carried out in a third country, along the lines of the United Kingdom’s "Forced Marriage Act". PACE thus underlines member states’ responsibility in preventing and countering such practices by effective legal measures and closer co-operation with the countries of origin, while the Council of Europe itself is planning to do more to help fight violence against women in Europe through a Convention.
In 2005, PACE called on all Council of Europe member states to make eighteen the minimum legal age for marriage and to facilitate the prevention, detection and annulment of forced marriages. In a resolution, the Assembly said it was outraged that “under the cloak of respect for the culture and traditions of migrant communities, there are authorities which tolerate forced marriages and child marriages although they violate the fundamental rights of each and every victim”.
[1] On 26 July 2007 the United Kingdom passed the “Forced Marriage Act” aimed at protecting the victims of forced marriages and preventing them from taking place. On 25 November 2008, the United Kingdom reinforced its legislation on forced marriages by enabling courts to prevent the potential victims from being taken abroad against their will and by obliging their families to reveal the whereabouts of a member of their family believed to be in danger. The matter can be brought before the courts by the victim, a friend or the police, and those who refuse to provide this information risk imprisonment.