Public Libraries in a fascistic country

The first Library at UWA. I also sat exams in the Undercroft - bottom floor.

The first Library at UWA. I also sat exams in the Undercroft – bottom floor.

One of the things that distinguishes an educated, well read and intelligent country is its reverence for and preservation of learning in science, literature, research and creativity. The repository of collections of the recordings, writings and other media relating to these lies in Public Libraries, University Libraries, Archives and Museums.

On a national level, all countries have central collections of archives; publications are held and stored; thanks to people like Dewey we have systematic ordering of all our publications held in central libraries; universities have many libraries devoted to the writings and other recordings of different disciplines within their purview. This is good and a comprehensive record of human achievement. It sounds grand, maybe grandiose on this level.
When we come to the humble local public library, many of which serve communities within our countries, there is a lesser sense of grandeur and more a sense of how much do these small repositories of literature and research materials cost to maintain.

Well … to my mind, it matters not how much the monetary cost of maintaining public libraries. It matters that these public libraries are maintained and developed for the benefit of the populace. It is one of those educational and social repositories that all communities need.

So it is with dreadful distress that I have had to read this:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/mar/29/libraries-facing-greatest-crisis-in-their-history

One of the best places to spend constructive time.

One of the best places to spend constructive time.

Quote: ‘ Nearly 350 libraries have closed in Britain over the past six years, causing the loss of almost 8,000 jobs, according to new analysis.’
In a country that prides itself on its supremacy in education, erudition, science and research, it is dreadful, to me, that the UK can elect to spend £167 billion on renewing a nuclear weapons facility and warheads in an age of ‘austerity’ while allowing our cache of public libraries to be halved. And, of course, that is not all to be decimated, halved, privatised or otherwise fucked.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/cost-of-replacing-trident-is-167bn-double-previous-estimates-calculations-suggest-a6708126.html

Now we all know that we will never be consulted on whether or not Trident should be renewed and that is because the Westminster Government is beholden to the US and the US dictate what we will do in Defence spending in the UK.
But it is of absolute concern to me and many others that the education system (or should I say systems) is in utter disarray. We have so-called ‘faith schools’ burgeoning out of every city, ‘academies’ – otherwise known as the privatisation of schools – being snapped up by private groups and companies eager to get their grubby fingers on the largesse of funds being offered by our cash strapped government.
Besides, the control on the standard of education is slipping away like a greasy rope in the hands of those who no longer seem to care. Not that you would know it if you were to listen to the bleatings of the ultra right wing press that operates in the UK.

No – everything is fine so long as we agree to Westminster’s selective austerity programmes and tighten our already anorexic  belts and suck it all up.
Back to public libraries: my wee library is in Glenwood.

The Kid's Corner of a great wee Library

The Kid’s Corner of a great wee Library

A friendly place with good staff and a warm (I mean under floor heating) environment for us to access, use computers, wifi, borrow books, order books for borrowing and/or just sit and read the daily papers. It is what is called a community hub for the local catchment and the old folk who enjoy a blether, a good read and some comfort. There is a cat – a fixture and the whole atmosphere is one of welcome. The kids use the computers, the oldies read the papers, the not-so-oldies borrow books, DVDs and audios. In short it is a good place. I use it a lot. I often sit in the comfy armchairs and just read my current book.
This library is scheduled for closure and demolition. Apparently it is one of 16 public library closures in the next three years in the Kingdom of Fife. Fife Council is charged with making some £813,000 savings – partly because there is a reduction in the funds our non-independent Scotland receives from the Westminster Government.

So public libraries – to be fair, savings are being made across the local government board (even employees are being ‘retired’ – some 2,000 of them in Fife. It does make me wonder how often local government recruiting is used as a sliding indicator for national employment figures. God I am so cynical!) – and there are other areas in which ‘savings’ are being made. And, this is not the first time Fife has closed public libraries but I wasn’t living here then and didn’t know.

To target libraries is one of the most counter-productive actions I can think of. It is not just dear Glenwood suffering – new Council housing is in the offing in the Glenwood area  and that means more young families. Fife Council has closed two public schools – thus over loading the poor school charged with taking the educationally orphaned students – it is across the Kingdom that these 16 library closures are happening.

Scotland has been a country of villages since its habitation by humans. It is so linguistically insular that you can tell the difference in speech within a few miles and a different village. The libraries that operate in these villages are far more than an operational budget item. They are the hub of small villages. They are the meeting place for the local people.

In the early 2000s, there was a directive in international standards that required a triple bottom line in accounting.  Called the 3BL, it is an accounting framework that incorporates social, environmental (or ecological) and financial bottom line figures.  It behooves companies to adopt this framework but it would appear that many haven’t bothered. I surrendered a directorship in an agricultural co-operative because the rest of the Board wouldn’t address these criteria.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_bottom_line

What is happening now seems to me to be a refusal to understand the social, environmental impact of financial decision making. If it is recognised at all, it is ignored. We have a burgeoning global population and a seemingly fascistic central government called Westminster. At the very  least, Westminster under Tory rule is aping US republican libertarianism. I have said before that the Tories eat Ayn Rand for breakfast every day.

Mind you, my friend in Australia is very sympathetic and also very pissed off – he sees the same thing happening in Australia and so I think – what on earth happened to the socialist left wing politics that put people before profit? That developed welfare safety nets, state funded secular education and a health system for all? We all seemed to gravitate to that in the 1970s and (sort of 1980s) when we were aware of our fellow man. What happened to all that? I do know the answer, of course. Globalisation happened and we knew it was on the door step in the 1970s. But it doesn’t stop me asking the question – what happened to our humanity? It seems to be dying as so many species are dying weekly, slowly etching out our own demise. What has it all been for? Our smarts have been our downfall and ultimate extinction. What a fucking waste!

 

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Mediocre Failures

I read this blog article with sadness and total agreement. Gove in the UK and Pyne in Australia are disasters in Government and are totally hopeless in dealing with their portfolios,

Quote:
‘So, Gove, Morgan, and any other cloistered, uncomprehending Central Office SPADs who had a hand in producing this execrable policy, and that quote in particular, let me tell you what failure is. Failure is an adult who, through ignorance, stupidity, laziness or a simple callous lack of empathy, happily labels the most vulnerable, disadvantaged children in the country as “mediocre failures” simply because you haven’t the wit or humanity to care about the impact on them of a policy which will make their educational experience narrower, less useful, more soul-destroying. And for what ? A cheap headline in a propaganda rag.’

Indeed. I couldn’t say it better myself.

Disappointed Idealist

My children are adopted. They were adopted at the ages of three, four and six. As with nearly all children adopted in this country over the last couple of decades, this means that their early life experiences were pretty terrible. As each was born, their collective experience of life became more damaging, as their circumstances worsened. So the eldest is least affected as her first years were perhaps less difficult experiences, while the youngest is most affected, as her entire first two years of life were appalling. I’m not going to go into detail here about their specific early life experiences, but if you want to read up on the sort of effects which can result from serious neglect or abuse, then you could read this .

Why am I writing this ? Especially now after midnight in the middle of the Easter holidays ? It’s because I’m so angry I…

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Religious Observance vs Comparative Religion

Ah well. One can hope they don't take it seriously, I guess.

One can only hope they don’t take it seriously, I guess.

This interesting and welcome article in the on-line BBC News will no doubt garner a heap of support. As it should. Whether or not the City of Edinburgh Council will have the gumption to take on the Church of Scotland and the other denominations that have their religious hooks into the (devolved) education system and curricula in Scotland is another matter entirely. And I can’t add my name because I live in Fife.

The Headline reads: Parent calls to remove ‘religious observance’ in non-denominational schools

‘A parent in Edinburgh has launched a petition calling on the city council to look at banning religious observance in non-denominational schools.’

The article does point out that parents are entitled to let their children ‘opt out’ of such religious observance, however that option tends to isolate and disadvantage the child. And, it appears, that parents are not being apprised of the right to opt out. Another BBC on-line News item several months ago

‘… only 20% of parents asked by YouGov on behalf of the Humanist Society of Scotland said they had picked up this information from schools.’

There has been a suggestion that if the damn thing is to stay, then the legislation or regulations need to change to allow the option of ‘opting in’. I can’t see that option flying though. I do remember opting out in the ‘50s and with a few others spent the weekly religious period in the library. I don’t recall being traumatised though or feeling victimised. I think we few, we happy few, felt we had escaped – whew!

My preference, like that of Veronica Wikman the parent, is to get rid of religion all together in schools. The only way to treat religion is through an historical perspective. Teach Comparative Religion. Teach that human beings have, from time immemorial, developed ideas of supernatural beings and events to explain what was, at the time, un-explainable. List and discuss various religions and why beliefs were held. Not a problem really. We teach history and the differing views held by different factions in wars, political movements, patriotic stances etc.

Ms Wikman’s point and that of the Edinburgh Secular Society that is backing this petition, is that the churches’ schools chaplains have unfettered access to vulnerable children. Indeed, the media contact for the ESS likened it to direct marketing and said it was inappropriate when he was on BBC Radio Scotland’s programme a couple of days ago.

The religious callers to the programme tried to rationalise their trenchant views in various ways. One said that because the streets were not safe anymore, that children were exposed to a sense of spiritual community and growth in the safety of the schools. Another tried to say that indoctrination was not the aim, but to grow up as healthy human beings children had to be taught about ‘light’ and ‘dark’ – I heard this woman on talk-back and the religious over and undertones were blazingly apparent. They are getting more clever at marketing the BS, that’s all.

School kiddies in thrall (I hope not)

School kiddies in thrall (I hope not)

I realise that in the western world, at least, religion is fading and a good thing too so far as the intellectual health of our societies is concerned.

With the churches targeting the poor of Africa and with Islam moving outwards into the further reaches from its home base in the middle east, we are seeing quite a battle being enjoined for the hearts and minds of ordinary people.

All religions are charged by their superstitious godhead through the holy books to proselytise. Islam is more violent than modern day Christianity but Judaism is more barricaded against the outside world. The slight resurgent hiccup in religious extremism being experienced in post industrial western cultures will fade fairly quickly, I would think – a generation maybe. But Islam is still a fierce wild eyed ideology that threatens and carries out murder for apostasy or conversion to another religion. It also has some deeply held belief that its particular brand of religious law needs to supplant the laws of any land it starts to populate. This, of course, is a problem with two cultures clashing in a single society and this is what is happening now in Britain and in some European countries.

I seriously think it is time to get religion out of everywhere in society except the churches premises. Out of education system, out of health and hospitals, out of the armed forces, out of the legislature and out of the judicial system.

It is time – to quote several politicians’ catch phrase. Maybe parents of other countries could try to eradicate the assumed arrogance of the religious to easy access to schools. To say they are not trying to indoctrinate is simply disingenuous and they need to be called out on that.

Measles hits the unvaccinated – thanks woo wooers!

Measles on the face of this child

Measles on the face of this child

What continues to irritate me, and that means that anyone who reads this stuff I write will have to read my gripe again, is the damned and demented anti-vaccine movement. There’s an article in the Daily Telegraph concerning a current outbreak of measles reported in public health and hospital records in the UK.

I just hope that I am posting this to people who will spread the necessity for herd immunisation in communities where kiddies and babies are at risk to ensure that young parents vaccinate their children. It is so important to keep these diseases at bay.

As you know I come from the Far North Coast of NSW where there is a cute little, relatively well heeled town called Bangalow. One Meryl Dorey resides there and, until recently, fronted for an organisation she founded called the Australian Vaccination Network.

She was a vociferous misinformation specialist spreading and scare mongering all around the place. She came to prominence when a wee baby died because of a preventable disease – whooping cough. The baby died because it was too young to have received the start of the vaccination schedule to provide the protection that most of us take for granted because we were vaccinated against infectious childhood diseases when we were kiddies. So we had mild doses of these diseases by and large. Nothing is 100% sure any way.

Measles on this 7yr old's body

Measles on this 7yr old’s body

A monitoring group developed calling itself the Stop the Australian (Anti) Vaccination Network and its success has been to publish the scare-mongering of Dorey and her group which has finally forced the government regulator to demand that AVN to change its misleading name or be deregistered.

That’s the background to my more generalised gripe. I have also railed against Andrew Wakefield here in London who has been struck off the register and banned from practising medicine in the UK. Unsurprisingly he now lives in the US which is where Dorey hails from.

Andrew Wakefield - medic no more

Andrew Wakefield – medic no more

During the period of the MMR scandal that Wakefield virtually singlehandedly spearheaded, vaccination rates in the UK dropped from 92% to below 80%. The kiddies that missed out are now adolescents of 18 – 20.

These are the current victims of an upsurge in the incidence of measles in the UK. The rate is reported as being the highest in 18 years with 2016 confirmed cases by early 2013. The Daily Telegraph reported this and among the comments made to the article are some of the most uneducated and scaremongering statements, presumably in an attempt to misinform people of the benefits of vaccination while highlighting a singular case of infection after vaccination.

Anti-vaxxers behave in the same way as religites. They suffer from confirmation bias and cherry pick what data they can and then propose their own interpretation of that data. You have to deconstruct the comments to find anything worth a second glance. And the anti-vaxxers lie. They make a bald statement like 47,500 paralysed kids from Gates Foundation polio shots. This then takes an immense amount to time to track down the what and why of comments like this to lay the lie to rest and understand what the figure actually refers to which is a rise in India in the number of non-polio acute flaccid paralysis that has nothing to do with the vaccine.

Then some people comment on their own circumstances as though one can extrapolate from anecdotal evidence to a generalised community data base.

You are entitled to your own opinion but not entitled to your own facts. Apparently attributed to DP Moynihan. Well, he is right regardless.

There was a good blog article in 2009 on scienceblogs about the anti vaccination movement. The irony is, of course, that medical research and technology has contributed to a diminution in the mortality rate of human beings.

Rubella fell sharply when immunization was introduced

Measles cases 1944-1963 follow a highly variable epidemic pattern, with 150,000-850,000 cases per year. A sharp decliine follows introduction of the vaccine in 1963, with fewer than 25,000 cases reported in 1968. Outbreaks around 1971 and 1977 gave 75,000 and 57,000 cases, respectively. Cases were stable at a few thousand per year until an outbreak of 28,000 in 1990. Cases declined from a few hundred per year in the early 1990s to a few dozen in the 2000s.

Measles reported in the US before & after introduction of the vaccine

And, of course, there’s small pox. Hasn’t been a case world wide since 1979 but an estimated 300 million died from small pox in the 20th century. I am sure even the silly and dangerously misinformed anti-vaxxers are glad that a global public health effort was undertaken to rid the world of that little nasty virus.

Female Genital Mutilation – FGM – in tolerant Britain

I am sick to bloody death of the so-called ‘cultural sensitivity’ that abounds in this damned country. The cultural sensitivity that I call wimpishness that allows, by tacitly condoning, some of the more repulsive and barbaric practices that have been imported into Britain.

These practices include the outrageous and egregious practice of female genital mutilation that has infiltrated this country via different immigrant peoples all of which call Islam their ‘religion’.

The British seem to have no idea how to make multiculturalism work but keep opening their arms to disparate groups of immigrants – mostly post colonial, some of whom are internecine enemies. The British then allow pockets of immigrant groups to form in housing estates thus allowing (again by tacit acceptance) a ghetto culture to develop with rival groups at loggerheads with each other. So much of this stems from the old days of Empire when Britain had some pretty horrendous practices of its own. But, really! Is that any excuse to encourage the barbarism that some of the immigrants’ cultures embrace with religious fervour. The Brits stand by limp-wristedly and spruik cultural sensitivity and inclusiveness.

Today the BBC online news had an article advertising its Newsnight programme tonight:

Hidden world of female genital mutilation in the UK

It must surely be unacceptable in any so-called self-styled civilised society to turn a blind eye to cutting off the clitoris, the outer labia and inner labia and then sewing up the raw flesh of the vagina leaving a tiny hole for urination and menstruation. Done when the girl is anywhere from three years old onwards. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was six when her grandmother held her down and in highly septic conditions mutilated her. That was in Somalia.

I understand how hard it is to track and monitor this revolting practice because it occurs usually in a domestic setting and on a kitchen table. I also understand how pathetic Border Control is – but that is where the monitoring should start.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali – mutilated at six

Read Ali’s book; read the BBC article; watch Newsnight tonight or watch it tomorrow on BBC iPlayer. Become aware of what is going on in the cities across Britain.

I fail to understand why, if France can use its enacted laws to prosecute the practitioners of this disgusting practice of hacking off female genitals, Britain has yet to prosecute anyone despite having enacted similar laws to France at the same time in the 1980s.

I get so angry when I try to imagine the horror and pain these children feel; what must seem as an act of betrayal from the parents and grandparents they have learnt to trust. Because it is an act of betrayal. Parents are expected to love, cherish and nurture their children, not mutilate them for some stupid tradition.

And then the aftermath when these girls grow up (some, of course, die from blood loss, toxic shock and other infections) – painful sex, reconstructive surgery, agonising childbirth after being cut open again for the passage of the baby. And I am supposed to accept that crap because such practices are part of the social and religious culture of various peoples? Bollocks! It is barbaric and stems from primitive beliefs and gender control measures.

This is how France’s seasoned campaigner sees it:

‘She (Isabelle Gillette-Faye) is trying her best not to be rude about the English.
“In England, you are very respectful of your immigrants,” she says.
“It is very different in France. They have to integrate and they have to obey our laws.”’

What sort of religious claptrap is Britain going to handle so that girls can be cut because the Brits are oh so ‘culturally sensitive’. What a load of rubbish. France has it on the money. Integrate and obey the laws of the land. Stamp this horrible dehumanising behaviour out – and Rowan Williams – stop bleating on about how Sharia law needs to sit in concert with British law so that Islam can continue pretending it can exert its barbarism in this country.

It is time to take a zero tolerance stance on this rubbish. Massive fines, gaol terms and banishment from our society. Come on Cameron, Gove, Clegg and the rest of you wimps. Do something!

Religious nuttery – alive and well (sort of)

I know that I keep banging on intermittently and vociferously about religious privilege that now goes under the banner of religious freedom. There seem to be more of us making the same point. This is good and to be applauded.

Several things have happened over the past little while:

 Firstly – the Catholic educational establishments in parts of America are falling foul of the National Labor Relations Board that made a ruling in favour of adjunct professors in a Catholic tertiary institution asking for their first pay rise in 5 years. The NLRB’s statement included the observation that ‘neither the university, nor its faculty, nor their courses were actually religious in any meaningful sense.’

Entry view to St Xavier’s, Chicago

Never the less St Xavier’s University in Chicago opposed the effort of the professors to unionise and lobby for a pay rise on the grounds that St Xavier’s was a religious institution and was allowed special powers that exempt them from laws of the land. The University will not win this one; the adjunct professors will. Good!

I note this bleating by the religious that their ‘freedom is in jeopardy’ is occurring with increased regularity and tedious repetition all over the post-industrial religious world. Of course, America is by far the most religious of all western democracies and the impact of its nutty religious views is becoming glaringly obvious.

While public (and private, privileged) education is being reinvented in the western world, America has a big problem. Educational standards are slipping in America; as the biggest slave to capitalism it is losing the race. Its paranoia that it is in danger of misplacing the American dream (as Carlin pointed out, you have to be asleep to believe in the American dream anyway) and that it is entitled to plunder the lion’s share of everything the planet has on tap is further diminishing the country. Its slowing innovative capacity is a problem; America is in danger of disappearing up its own fundament. It would seem that its citizens have little if any idea of what lies outside the shores of America which increases its predilection to greater isolation and self imposed dangerous insularity.

SecondlyGermany has made circumcision for religious reasons illegal. Well, great! It is about time. Desert dust, unsanitary conditions, control over sexuality and thousands of years of inappropriate rubbish promoted and adhered to by a barbaric group of uneducated people needs to be disbanded. Good. I am glad. However the religious organisations are up in arms screaming lack of religious freedom. If religious freedom means the legally sanctioned practice of cutting off the foreskin of young boys’ penises, then all I can say is that such barbarism needs to be banned and good on Germany. Other countries (all European, I bet) will follow. Good.

There is an argument that circumcision doesn’t hurt baby boys within the first day or so of life. If you have ever heard a baby scream while this ‘operation’ is carried out, you know that that is utter rot. Some baby boys have died from blood loss as well. The circumcision of boys at later stages of their early lives is horrendous. There are Jewish sects where the ‘holy man’ uses his teeth to rip the foreskin from the boy’s penis. Nice! The Muslims are protesting their religious freedom as well. Tough. Good on Germany.

Thirdly – Bavaria has issued a statement that Islam will not be able to run its parallel legal system called Sharia law in concert with the law of the land. Good. Unfortunately, the use of Sharia law is likely to be driven underground which is always a problem. Here in Britain, the devout Muslims use their self styled Imams to instruct them on behaviour that sometimes includes female genital mutilation, honour killings and forced marriages together with polygamy and divorce procedures. This is not good. Young pubescent girls still get sent to Pakistan by their families into arranged but not agreed to marriages. Some suicides result, some facial mutilation occurs, often by the throwing of acid, if the girls dissent and some honour killings are perpetrated if the girls refuse.

Please don’t try to tell me or any other person who has grown into this century that these things are right. They are not. Not under any circumstances.

Fourthly – The City of Edinburgh has cancelled prayers and made asking guidance from the sky daddy a private thing to be exercised outside the chamber. This is good. A number of other councils in both Scotland and the rest of Britain are doing the same. Ireland has suffered through the Catholic paedophilia scandals and the Irish are turning away from religion in droves. In hind sight (always a good, if biased way to turn one’s neck), Ireland may just save itself from the current religiosity earlier than the rest of us.

Finally! Good grief – now I have just read of a group of Sikhs in Wiltshire who occupied their community’s temple called a gurdwara in order to halt a marriage ceremony between a Sikh woman of their community and a Christian man – who just happens to be of West African background. What I noticed in the news reports is that these protesters are being referred to as ‘hardliners’ not religious fanatics or fundamentalists. Just racial bigots I guess.

“This new trend of interfaith marriages in Sikh places of worship directly breaks the Sikh code of conduct and tenants (sic)…”, they claimed, adding that they held a “peaceful protest” to stop the “beadbi ” (insult) of the gurdwara.”

This is the gurdwara in question

And apparently protesting is hungry work – the protesters are reported as having eaten the wedding feast that had been laid out in advance of the ceremony that was eventually solemnised in the Registry Office, sans wedding breakfast.

It is hard not to laugh and snigger at the idiocy that is religious belief and the adherence to some silly dogma or three. Like the Mormons and their magic underpants to protect their precious genetic material from radiation damage. Or the suicide bombers who wrap their family jewels in kitchen foil to ensure their intactness when they get to their 72 virgins in paradise. Never mind they will never find their eyes scattered all over the place so they can never feast them on the beauty of their allotted virgins. Let alone their fingers – so no touchy touchy either.

I mean really! Am I supposed to respect this crap and be smiley polite to people who actually believe this sort of rubbish? Like virgin births? Levitation? Angels? Fishes and loaves? Winged horses? Devils and magi? Resurrections?

What we do need now is the banning of religious indoctrination in any and all educational establishments anywhere in the world and we may have a hope of survival in this century. I can’t really see it myself. We have a deep flaw that has us scrabbling to outdo each other in the magic that we imagine and turn into our own hubris. And expect others to believe obvious nuttery.

Not this little duck, I am glad to say.

Forced Marriage – honour-based abuse

The Prime Minister

In today’s news Cameron appears to be set to make forced marriage a criminal offence. The BBC Newsround headlines:

Forced marriage to be made illegal in England and Wales

My initial reaction was Hurrah! And then I thought – hang on, I am actually astonished that it isn’t a criminal offence already. This is 21st century Britain after all.

So I started scouring the news for details. I found that in Scotland, forced marriage has been illegal only since November 2011. Here is a definition as noted by the Scottish Government:

A forced Marriage is a marriage in which one or both parties do not (or, in the case of some adults with learning or physical disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and duress is involved. Duress includes both physical and emotional pressure. It is very different from arranged marriage, where both parties give their full and free consent to the marriage.

The Independent today has an opinion piece entitled:

Forced marriage – we can’t ignore the shocking truth

Apparently until now, forced marriage has been a civil offence only. The Government in England instituted a Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) which could use the force of the law but not prosecute the parents. This soft approach was to encourage victims to report knowing that their parents would not be prosecuted. This is about to change. We can only hope victims will still report to the FMU.

Last year the FMU dealt with 1,468 cases (78% are women and 30% of those are under 18). I don’t how many of the remaining 22% are disabled and/or gay men and how many are boys also being forced into marriage.

The statistics show that 56% of 2011’s victims had learning disabilities and some 10 cases involved gays or lesbians. And these figures are only the reported ones. There seems to be a whole underground in this country where honour-based abuse thrives.

Karma Nirvana has some 5,000 distress phone calls to its helpline every year. This is from their web page:

At Karma Nirvana, we have one clear aim: to stop the scandal of forced marriage and honour-based violence. No apologies. No excuses. No backing down.

If you’re here to tell us that we can please all cultures without causing the slightest bit of offence – well, frankly, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Jasvinder Sanghera

Jasvinder Sanghera the founder, is committed to the support of victims of honour-based abuse in Britain after her own experiences and the suicide of her sister.

We are aware that forced marriages appear to have more to do with eastern and Middle Eastern countries and the cultural norms and religions that survive there. But this is happening in Great Britain among immigrant communities. Some girls are sent back to where their families came from and forced into marriage there, often to much older men and/or male relatives. Some girls and women are subjected to constant rape and domestic violence. Some girls and women commit suicide because there seems no way out.

Along with forced marriage goes domestic violence, honour killings and female genital mutilation (FGM). None of these practices should be condoned by Britain or, indeed, anywhere else. Remember Ayaan Hirsi Ali talking about these things in Somalia in her book Infidel? A horrifying read.

And now we are aware that disabled people are being forced into marriage in this country. Over half of the cases reported to the FMU relate to disabled people. According to the blog DisabledGo News, half of the cases reported are from Pakistani origin and the rest from across many different ethnic groups. Some are forced into marriage to provide them with a carer others for residence and citizenship reasons.

Cameron is quoted as describing forced marriage as “little more than slavery”. Yes, Cameron, that is true. And now – how do we ensure that the practice doesn’t go underground? That’s a potential problem that I can see and can’t think of a solution.