I doubt I was the only person upset and angered at the story of the 17-year-old girl in Wellington whose parents tricked her into a forced marriage. She was imprisoned at home for several months, until she escaped.
Her parents have gone back to Pakistan, but the father is reported to have said he would kill her if he saw her again.
Sadly this can't just be dismissed as hyperbole. Canada has just had a conclusion to a trial in which a father, with help from other family members, killed his three daughters and one of his wives. This was a so-called "honour" killing. Of course honour had nothing to so with it. Secret wiretaps revealed the father saying "God curse their generation, they were filthy and rotten children," and "To hell with them and their boyfriends, may the devil s**t on their graves."
The 17-year-old girl in Wellington may be lucky she escaped such a fate. As New Zealanders, we need to ask ourselves what we can do to minimise this occuring in New Zealand.
Let me start by saying I am very much a fan of immigration into New Zealand. I think that subject to the right criteria, immigrants help grow the New Zealand economy, but also help our society grow. I think it is a good thing that we have a multicultural society which blends many races and cultures.
I also think that one has to be careful not to attribute events like this to one religion. While forced marriages and honour killings are generally associated with so-called adherents of Islam, they are a tiny minority. Some might advocate that our immigration laws should discriminate on the basis of religion, but I do not.
What I do advocate, though, is we should consider a more thorough testing of people's fundamental beliefs and character in our immigration programme.
There are many things that New Zealanders have a diversity of opinion on. But there are also some things which are fundamental to New Zealand society. I would include in that list of fundamentals the rule of law, democracy, equal rights for women, separation of state and church, and free speech. What I would advocate is that potential immigrants to New Zealand are made very aware of these fundamental New Zealand values, and told that if they are uncomfortable with a society where (for example) women have equal rights, then perhaps New Zealand is not a place where they will be very happy.
The Netherlands did something like this a few years ago, when some of their more recent immigrants were taking violent actions against openly gay couples in public. The Netherlands has long been a tolerant country for same-sex relationships. So the government moved to make prospective immigrants see a video of typical life in the Netherlands, and this included showing same-sex couples displaying affection in public. The message was that if this makes you uncomfortable, then this is not the place for you.
I'm not advocating exactly the same approach here. But I would like to see something done to educate prospective immigrants on New Zealand society, and especially on the equality of women - that they can choose their own partners, how they dress, if they work and that the family's views do not override the law, once they are no longer a child.
This doesn't guarantee we won't still have some immigrants (and let's remember it is already a small minority) who have beliefs incompatible with NZ society, but it may reduce the chances of further forced marriages or even so called "honour" killings in New Zealand.
David Farrar is a centre-right blogger affiliated to the National Party. His disclosure statement is here.
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