Thank you, President
Let me first thank the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery for her highly relevant report on servile marriage. This report documents that serious human rights violations are committed against young women and girls under the cover of marriage. We take due note of the discussion of its causes which include gender inequality, ideas of family honour, poverty, conflict and cultural and religious practices. We fully agree with her view that actions to prevent servile marriage and support victims are needed.
Servile marriages are essentially a violation of women’s rights in that they are deprived of their right to decide over their own body. Premature pregnancies and child births are often consequences that represent a high risk and may be life threatening to mother as well as child. Servile marriages will, in many cases, lead to the exclusion of women from active participation in the social, economic, and political spheres of a country. Thus, forced marriages also have negative developmental consequences in many countries.
We hope the report will serve as an essential tool in the struggle to combat servile marriage, a practice which reduces a spouse to a commodity over whom any or all the powers of ownership are attached.
In Norway our efforts in this field have been focused on the fight against forced marriages . The Government has implemented several Action Plans with the principal goals of boosting public sector initiatives and firmly embed these areas in the public sector.
Much has already been achieved, including:
• increased awareness in the public sector and among the general public
• heightened expertise and collaboration in the public sector and
• better help and support for victims
During 2012, the Norwegian government will consider how the national initiatives to combat forced marriage should be organized in the future. A working group is established to assess further initiatives in these areas.
Specific importance has been attached to reinforce the role of the education system through the minority counselors scheme. To date, this has proved to be an effective low-threshold service for teenagers and upper secondary school pupils, that has helped to identify cases at a relatively early stage, and to develop expertise in the field. This knowledge has proved important in preventive work.
The Action Plans have also attached importance to local and regional anchoring of measures, through further development of the Expert Team for the Prevention of Forced Marriage.
Non-governmental organizations have made a major contribution to, and been a driving force behind, initiatives to combat forced marriage, and will continue to play an extremely important role in the future. Therefore the government continues to grant support for non-governmental organizations’ preventive and opinion-forming work.
We ask the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on how her recommendation on a more comprehensive approach, legislation, awareness campaigns and support to victims can be put into practice.
Thank you, President