‘Law must apply to all ethnic groups’

The same protection from, and punishment for, domestic violence
should be afforded to all individuals, irrespective of ethnic
origin, solicitor-general Harriet Harman said last week.

Speaking at the Southwark Race Equality Council, London, Harman
said strategies to tackle domestic violence had to be “geared to
the particular issues of each community”.

“We need to ensure that women in ethnic minority communities have
the confidence that they do not have to put up with domestic
violence,” Harman said. “We must support those who challenge the
notion that women are betraying their community by reporting the
men of their community to the police.”

Her comments came just days after Court of Appeal judges ordered a
retrial of a case that resulted in a young Indian mother having her
children taken from her because she would not reveal who had abused
one of them.

In 2003, Leeds High Court ordered that the woman’s first child be
taken into care after being diagnosed by hospital doctors as
suffering serious non-accidental injuries. The woman’s second child
was taken away from her at birth.

But Appeal Court judges heard how, at the time, the young Sikh
woman was new to the country, did not speak English and was
dominated by her in-laws and husband.

They ordered a retrial and told Kirklees Council to put the
adoption orders for the two children on hold after the woman, who
now lives in a refuge, broke her silence and claimed her husband
was regularly drunk in charge of her oldest child, her
mother-in-law was “cruel and violent” and her father-in-law
mishandled her child.

The children will remain in the care of Kirklees until the retrial.

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