“I Am Going to Kill You Now”, Says Loving Dad

It is the young flesh they want”, by Anne Barrowclough, in The Australian:

On a hot summer’s day earlier this year, a beautiful young Pakistani girl named Amina stood in the living room of her western Sydney home, listening in horror as her father explained how he planned to ­murder her.
“I am going to kill you now, right here!” he shouted at the 16-year-old.  “And no one will say anything about what I do to you.  I am too powerful in the community.”  Amina’s parents had promised her to a man 13 years her senior and she had made the mistake of refusing to marry him.  Her arguments would not sway her father and even when her husband-to-be beat her in front of him, her dad remained ­resolute, telling her:  “He is already your ­husband in front of God.”
“She adored her father but he believed that by refusing to marry this man, she was ­damaging the honour of the family,” says Eman ­Sharobeem, manager of the Immigrant Women’s Health Service in Fairfield, Sydney.  “I have no doubt that he would have killed her if I hadn’t intervened.”  Amina might have been raised in Australia, adopting the attitude and dress of her teenage friends, but to her father she was “just a good sale item, a stunningly beautiful girl who would bring a good dowry”.
The child’s father eventually agreed to spare his daughter’s life—not out of any sense of mercy, Sharobeem says, but because he realised it would be difficult to kill the girl and get away with it.  So he packed Amina off to Pakistan, where she has been held in his family’s home for the past two months.  “She texted me the other day,” says Sharobeem.  “She said, ‘They won’t kill me because they know you know.  But they will keep me here until I agree to marry that man.”  Her last text said:  “I might give in.”
For years, child marriage in this country has been hidden under layers of culture and tradition in tight-knit communities—a fringe issue that’s been difficult to gauge and hard to investigate.  Then came news of a 12-year-old girl who was “married” in January to a 26-year-old Lebanese university student in an Islamic ­ceremony at the girl’s home in NSW’s Hunter ­Valley, and the layers of secrecy began to peel away.  On best estimates, the number of girls in Australia being forced into marriage here or overseas is in the hundreds every year.  Girls as young as 12 or 13 are disappearing from schoolyards, packed off to the countries of their parents’ birth to wed men they have never met, while others are taken from their homes in southern Asia and the Middle East and brought into Australia to marry.
The National Children’s and Youth Law Centre has identified 250 cases of under-age marriage over the past 24 months, while ­Sharobeem, who was herself married to a cousin at the age of 14, says there are at least 60 child wives living in south-western Sydney alone.  In Melbourne, Melba Marginson, executive director of the Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition (VIRWC), says she sees 150 women a week who are in forced and ­violent marriages, many of them married off when they were still children.  “But what we are seeing is only the tip of the iceberg,” she says.
Those within the communities say the problem is greater than even these campaigners believe it to be.  Alia Sultana, a Pakistani ­Hazara woman who works with Afghan ­Hazaras in Melbourne, told me:  “I would say nearly every Afghan Hazara family in ­Melbourne is involved in this practice.”  Sultana, who fled the Taliban two years ago with her family, added:  “I only know about these girls because I am also a ­Hazara, and the other women tell me about them.  They are kept prisoners, locked in their husbands’ homes and only allowed out if their mothers-in-law go with them, so they can never seek help.”
I am in a shopping mall in Dandenong, Melbourne, a vibrant area with a mix of migrant communities.  With me is Badria, a pretty young Afghan woman who has lived in Australia almost all her life.  One evening when she was just 15 years old, Badria was cooking with her mother in their Dandenong home when her father came in and hugged her. “Congratulations,” he told her.  “You are engaged!”  The man to whom she was promised was a friend of her 28-year-old brother, who had promised to help his mate leave Afghanistan and move to Australia.  “My brother used me to get his friend an Australian visa,” says Badria.  “But I didn’t know that at the time.  I was so young I didn’t know what was happening to me.  All I knew was that I didn’t want to get married yet.
“I wanted to make something of my life,” she says.  “But in our culture you obey your father.  I would not have thought of saying no to the marriage.  On the day of the wedding, standing there marrying this guy, I felt helpless, trapped and scared.  But I remember thinking, ‘If I say anything against this, I will shame the family’s name.’ ”  Badria, who regarded herself as Australian, had hoped to finish school before she was married but she’d known her chances were slim:  her mother was 14 and still playing with dolls on her wedding day.  With two older sisters, Badria had expected to have more time to enjoy her teen years.  “I knew my brother wanted his friend to marry one of us sisters; I had heard my parents discussing it,” she says.  “But I was third in the [marriage] queue so I thought it would be one of the older girls.”
So why was she chosen?  “That’s what I asked my mother.  Why me?  And my mother said because I was still so young and naive.  She said, ‘You are a good girl, you are very quiet and ­sabore [patient]’. In our community, men like to marry very young girls because they can induct the girl into their lifestyle.  Because she’s so young, she will soon forget her childhood and she will never question her husband.  She is taken into her husband’s family and is told, ‘This is where your real life starts.’”
Later, I ask Sharobeem why children are so desirable as wives.  She says her own husband had told her:  “I take you as young clay so I can shape you the way I want.  But really,” she adds, “it is the young flesh that they want.”
Badria’s marriage was brutishly violent.  While her father persuaded his son-in-law to let Badria continue her education, she missed many days at school because of black eyes and bleeding lips.  “I used to tell the teachers I had to stay home because I had a fever.  They never thought I was married because I was so young, but I’m sure my friends knew.  It was probably happening to them, too, but none of us talked about it.  There is so much happening in our community that no one talks about. There are girls like me in every school in Dandenong.  There are a lot of stories like mine, but it is a hidden thing.”
When Badria was four months pregnant, her husband beat her so badly—kicking her in the stomach with his metal-tipped work boots—that she lay in a corner, unable to move for a day and a night.  The baby was born with severe heart problems and Badria is convinced it was the beating that did that damage.  Soon after, she sought safety in a refuge with her baby.  The little girl died, aged just eight months.
Badria shows me a picture of the infant, with her huge dark eyes and long curly hair, and sobs as she talks about her loss.  She says the only thing that saved her from suicide was her parents’ decision to take her back to live with them.  Badria insists they knew nothing about her ­husband’s violence until these last sad months.  “So many times my father has kissed my hands and said, ‘I’m so sorry, my daughter, for putting you through this.’  But my brother never apologised.  He didn’t think any of it was his fault.  He only ever said:  ‘I found you a husband.’ ”
Badria’s decision to leave her marriage makes her an exception in a community where the sense of duty is so strong that most girls would not refuse their parents’ wishes, and where the fear of fathers and husbands is so great that they will not flee even the most violent of ­marriages.  The fear is very real; Amina is not the only girl whom Sharobeem has saved from a potential honour killing.
Recently, she was contacted by a mother whose 17-year-old daughter had shamed the family by having a boyfriend.  The mother had heard her husband and son discussing whether to kill the girl or marry her off overseas.  “This mother said, ‘I’m afraid she will run away and they will definitely kill her if she does.’”  When Sharobeem went to visit the family, the girl’s father told her: “It would be better for everyone if she dies.”  His son said, vehemently, “If it was up to me I would kill her right now.  Either we throw her away [marry her off overseas to ­whoever would take her] or we kill her.”
This young man, who had been educated in Australia and knows Australian laws and values, explained:  “She has shamed me and my family.  I will be the joke of my peers—they will be laughing at me for the rest of my life.  She has not only shamed me, she has shamed my future.  No one will come near us now.”
The concept of honour underlines all areas of life in these strongly patriarchal communities.  “It is important to protect their creed, their family, their honour and that’s why honour ­killings occur,” says Sarita Kulkarni, from the VIRWC.  Panditji Abhay Awasthi, chairman of the Hindu Foundation of Australia, told me:  “I am sure there are honour killings happening in Melbourne and in Sydney.”  Awasthi, who counsels hundreds of young Melbourne women trapped in violent marriages, says he has become suspicious of a number of deaths and apparent suicides in the community.
“Honour killings happen in India and people have brought this culture here to Australia,” he says.  “It is also going on in the Pakistan Punjab community.  Last year I was told that families were taking their daughters back to Pakistan, and no one ever heard from them again.  We are sure they’ve been killed, but it’s very hard to prove this is happening.  Even those who are being tortured by their families don’t talk because that will only put them at further risk.”
Sharobeen says:  “I have already saved two girls and failed to save one woman from murder.  The violent enforcement against women in some of these communities is well known, and it is accepted.  People don’t believe it is wrong.”
The woman Sharobeem was unable to save was a Coptic Christian who went to her mother for help after suffering daily beatings from her husband.  But the girl’s mother brushed her concerns aside, telling her:  “So what?  Your father beats me.”  The woman left her husband, but was persuaded to return to him by the ­family priest.  Days later, the husband took her to a motel, drugged her, had sex with her and then murdered her.
This is the atmosphere in which young girls are growing up, only a few kilometres from the sophisticated centres of our major cities.  “We are not in the suburbs of Kabul or Baghdad, but in Sydney,” says Sharobeem, but to all intents and purposes many of her clients could be ­living back in the cities of their parents’ birth.
The practice of underage marriage crosses cultural and religious lines.  It is prevalent in western and sub-Saharan Africa, and in South Asia; for example, it’s estimated more than half of the girls in Bangladesh, Mali, Mozambique and Niger are married before the age of 18.  One in nine girls will be under the age of 15.
Many of the women and girls Sharobeem deals with speak little or no English and the suppression of women is so inculcated that in many cases they themselves see nothing wrong with it.  “I’ve heard men telling new arrivals, ‘It is our duty to keep the women away from the bad influences here and not let them learn ­English’,” says Sharobeem.  “And both men and women believe they must treat their children harshly and marry them off early to keep them safe in a society where everything is loose.”
Many of those I spoke to, in Indian, Afghan, Iraqi and Pakistani communities, stressed the difference between “arranged” marriages, where the girls’ consent was sought before an engagement could take place, and “forced” marriage.  Many, including teenage girls, spoke eloquently of the advantage of arranged marriages over the Western version.  One Hazara girl told me:  “My friend’s ­sister is 15 and has just become engaged.  But there is nothing wrong with that.  She has given her consent and she probably won’t actually be married for a few years.”
However, others point out there is a fine line between the two.  “There is a lot of manipulation,” says Manjula O’Connor, director of the Australasian Centre for Human Rights and Health.  “Mothers tell their children that they will kill themselves unless the child agrees to the marriage.  Some arranged marriages are done well but in others, the young people have no choice.  They are effectively forced into the marriage.”
In February last year parliament passed the Slavery Act, which introduced the new offence of forced marriage; by its very nature child ­marriage was always ­illegal.  Yet it would be wrong to suggest that even under-age marriages are planned with malevolence.  Most parents genuinely want the best for their children and marry them to men whom they believe will be good husbands.  Sharobeem’s father married her to an older cousin because he thought the cousin would keep her safe; Badria’s parents, too, believed that she would be cared for by her brother’s friend.  Others marry off their girls to save them from what they see as the much worse fate of having a relationship outside of marriage, in the mistaken belief that as soon as a girl menstruates she is ready for sex.
Both Sharobeem and Marginson told me of being berated by men and women who accused them of encouraging children into sin by their campaigns against child brides.  Instead, these ­people argued, once a girl was menstruating, she had to be married off quickly to protect her and her family’s honour.  “One day when I was on the radio, a man rang to say:  ‘You want our girls to have sex without getting married, and that makes you a sinner’,” says Sharobeem.  “I had to tell him, ‘Having your period doesn’t mean you’re ready to have children’.”
In the Hunter Valley case involving the 12-year-old girl, court documents allege the father (an Australian man described as a Muslim convert) told police his main concern was that his ­daughter might commit “a sin against God” by having sex outside marriage.  He allegedly ­consented to the marriage—even providing her with sexual advice—because she was beginning to “become excited around boys” and he didn’t want her to live “a sinful life”.
The father, and the girl’s “husband”—who has been charged with 25 counts of sexual ­intercourse with a child—are due to appear in court again on June 18.  The imam who conducted the ceremony was fined $500 and is awaiting deportation.
Some families marry their girls off for mercenary reasons; they’re “sold” to men who will pay a large dowry for a young bride with an Australian visa.  Hundreds of girls are brought into the country at the age of 17 under the Prospective Spouse Visa program, whose rules insist that a marriage must take place within nine months.
In a case reported in 2011, a Year 10 Lebanese girl brought to Australia was told by her family she would be “slaughtered and killed” if she didn’t marry her husband-to-be, although he was a violent drunk who already had another wife and three children.
Some brave girls stand up for themselves:  in 2011, a 16-year-old Sydney girl applied successfully to be put on the Airport Watch List to prevent her parents from taking her to Lebanon to be married.  A 13-year-old who told teachers at her Melbourne school that she was to be ­married was also put on the Watch List.
But girls who go against their parents’ wishes not only face rejection by their family but by their communities, who collude to keep them suppressed and silent.  When I asked why girls did not leave violent, ­abusive husbands, I was told repeatedly, “The community will throw her away.”
Leyla, an Iraqi woman who at the age of 12 was taken off the street where she was playing, dusted down and taken into her engagement ceremony, is still with her brutal husband despite years of cruelty.  Days after her wedding, furious that his child bride was refusing to have sex with him, and frustrated at his family’s demands to see blood on their sheets to prove her virginity, Leyla’s ­husband took a knife and slashed her vagina to provide his family with the all-important blood token.  She was just 13 when she bore the first of her five sons.
Today, her face and body are disfigured:  her broken jaw makes her face lopsided, and a dislocated shoulder hangs lower than the other.  She is scarred inside and out by her husband’s brutality and her own self-harm.  She weeps throughout our interview, and swears to me that she will leave her husband once her youngest son is married.  But if she does, the community will turn on her.  “I will never be able to marry again.  It is impossible,” she whispers.
O’Connor describes the societal ­pressure on young girls as “the super-eye of the culture”.  She explains:  “You are not allowed to move too far out of it.  If you do, or if you disobey their rules, not only are you excluded from your own society but so are your parents and family.  No one will want to marry your sisters, and your brothers will be laughed at.  The pressure on the girls is so enormous that they tend to behave themselves and don’t leave the family tradition.”
The power of the communities is so strong that Sharobeem, ­Marginson and the professionals who refer cases to them have to keep much of their work clandestine.  When I ask Sharobeem to put me in touch with a doctor who has sent a number of child brides to her centre, she shakes her head.  “He would never work in the ­community again,” she says. When I argue that his name would not be printed, she shakes her head again.  “But the community will know.”
What makes it even harder is that so many women still accept it.  There’s a saying they use for the wedding night:  “Kill the cat to slaughter the cat.”  Says Sharobeem:  “The cat is the young bride and the saying means she must have her self-esteem slaughtered from day one so she will never raise her voice or have her say.”
Sarah, an 18-year-old Pakistani, tells me:  “Girls know the first five years of marriage are a struggle.  They are under so much pressure to make their marriage work that they don’t even think that what is happening to them is wrong.  They think [violence] is just what happens.”
All those fighting for the rights of migrant women believe education is the key:  not just a Western education, but teaching them that they don’t have to endure violent marriages.  “These women feel very isolated,” says Nga Hosking, community development officer of the VIRWC.  “They don’t realise they have the right to come out and ask for help.  If they try to knock on one door and that shuts on them, they will not try again.  It’s our job to teach them that they will get help if they knock.”
But it’s never an easy task.  One woman told O’Connor:  “Learning about my rights has made it harder for me because I still can’t leave. It was easier when I thought this was just what happened— could stick my head in the sand and put up with it.”
“It is critical that the whole community is educated,” says Jennifer Burn of Anti-Slavery Australia.  “The Koran does not support child marriage* and the Grand Mufti of Australia says that consent is vital.  But there are over 60 different traditions within the Muslim community, with different interpretations of the religious scriptures.  We need the religious leaders to take the message into the communities, because they will listen to their leaders rather than us.”
There have been advances; some imams have begun to preach against underage marriage and teachers are now more aware of the issue.  In the Hindu community, Panditji Awasthi and his colleagues try to convince women that it is not wrong to leave violent marriages.  Thanks to programs run by organisations such as the VIRWC and the Immigrant Women’s Health Service, young girls are learning that they don’t have to agree to be married before they are ready and their parents are also being taught that the practice is cruel.
But there is still a very steep path to climb.  One afternoon I find myself in Dandenong drinking tea and eating traditional Hazara cakes with the women of the Sultana family as they explain to me why the young girls brought from Afghanistan and married to men far older than themselves won’t seek help.  Alia Sultana makes the most devastating point.
“These girls are just happy that they don’t have to get up at 5am to clean the house and work in the fields anymore,” she says.  “In Australia they have a bed to sleep in; they have a dishwasher and a vacuum cleaner.  They don’t mind if their husband is violent and they will never try to get help because they are just happy to be out of Afghanistan.”

* well, actually, it does.

“Time to Stop the Stupidity”

Nigel Farage, rightly, opposes the silly, pseudo-scientific conjecture of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming, the related scams, and the massive amounts of taxpayers’ funds wasted thereon; naturally, one mendacious dimwit attempts to repudiate Farrage’s claim by repeating the widespread lie that a supposed consensus of scientists—in his case, a risible “99%”—durst support the hoax:

You keep telling us that climate change is an absolute top priority, and you’ve been greeted with almost hysteria in this place over the last ten years.
Well, those of us who have been sceptical about this have been mocked, derided, called ‘deniers’.  We’ve argued from the start that the science wasn’t settled, and we’ve argued very strongly that the measures we’re taking to combat what may or may not be a problem are damaging our citizens; and we’ve been proved to be right.  Tens of millions forced into fuel poverty, manufacturing industry being driven away because, of course, our competitors in China and in America are going for cheap fossil alternatives and, of course, wind turbines blighting the landscapes and seascapes of Europe.
And still today you go on about green growth.  Well, the consensus is breaking behind you […].  It is time to stop this stupidity.

For Our Own Good

See Christopher Booker, “Deported, imprisoned and beaten for being a parent”:

Last Thursday, a crippled American woman in a wheelchair was bundled by six members of prison staff in riot gear into a van at Holloway, where she had been for 21 months.  Driven to Heathrow, accompanied by four guards from a firm hired by the UK Border Agency, she was put on an aircraft, to be dumped on the Tarmac in Washington, where she was deprived of her US passport, given no money and left to fend for herself—while her four-year-old son remained miserably in Britain in the care of Barnet council.
Two years ago, social workers had been informed by someone working for a charity that her mildly autistic son, who had been born while she was in Ireland and is an Irish citizen, needed speech therapy.  When she disagreed, the social workers made moves for the boy to be taken into care.  Before they could obtain the necessary order, however, she escaped with her son to Spain.  After the council won its care order, a European Arrest Warrant was issued for her to be returned to London, on the grounds that she had kidnapped someone else’s child.
This arose from the fact that she had lived and worked for a while in London under an assumed name, because she had overstayed her UK visa.  Thus, she and her son had different surnames.  But this was not the reason given for the arrest warrant, which said only that she was “connected with” the boy, clearly implying that he was not her son.  In a Spanish prison she was beaten by prison staff who had been told that the child was not hers.
Back in England, the boy was taken into care and his mother sent to Holloway.  In April 2012, she faced a criminal charge of abducting someone else’s child.  By the court’s leave, her charge sheet was amended to show a name different from her son’s.  She was told by her lawyers that her only hope of seeing him again was to plead guilty.  She was ordered to be deported as a criminal after completing 12 months in prison.  She tried to lodge appeals, but got nowhere, although she was eventually able to arrange DNA tests, which were only made available after she had served her sentence, and which confirmed that the boy was her son.  Pictures taken of him when the tests were carried out showed her once happy, healthy boy looking miserable, lost and ill after a year in foster care.
Last July, as she remained in prison as an “overstayer” while her attempts to appeal continued, her friends found her horribly bruised, crippled and in need of a wheelchair, from what she described as a savage beating by six members of the prison staff, who believed that she had kidnapped someone else’s child.  Finally, on Thursday she was deported to Washington, where she has no family, friends or means of support.  Her new US passport, bought for her by a friend for £250, was confiscated.  Her son remains in foster care and is to be put up for adoption.

Such authoritarianism, as ever, is only for our own good, of course.

Update I (7 October):  Christopher Booker provides further details in “Social workers damn us both ways”:

[More information] of the American mother who on September 15 was dumped in a wheelchair at Washington airport by the UK Border Agency (UKBA), after serving 21 months in Holloway Prison for “abducting” her son to Spain to prevent him being seized on the flimsiest excuse by Barnet social workers.
She had been given £250 by a wellwisher to buy a new US passport.  But this was confiscated on her arrival by US immigration officials because she had flown in on a temporary travel document arranged by the UKBA.
What the UKBA had not bothered to arrange were the “reception and rehabilitation” facilities she was promised.  She was thus abandoned in her wheelchair at the airport, penniless and without a passport, only to discover that, without any official identification, she could not get access to any of the help with accommodation or food she desperately needed.  She cannot even apply for a job.
For three weeks she has been living at the airport, subsisting on the odd charitable gift, at her wits’ end as to where to turn.  She cannot obtain the necessary ID without her birth certificate, which has apparently been lost by the London solicitors whose advice to her that she should plead guilty to abducting her son landed her in this plight in the first place.
When I asked the Home Office why the UKBA failed to make those reception and rehabilitation arrangements she was promised, I was told: “We cannot discuss individual cases.”  There is certainly no surer way to find yourself damned in Britain today than to fall foul of our utterly dysfunctional “child protection” system.

Update II (16 October): Christopher Booker continues to provide further details of the pettiness and self-serving interference of the “child-protection” Gauleiters in “‘We decide where you eat’ – social workers love a petty power trip”:

A year ago, under the heading “Don’t ask your grandson how his jaw got broken, say social workers”, I reported the bizarre story of an Essex grandmother who was allowed a brief “contact” session with her beloved 11-year-old grandson, shortly after he had been beaten up on a beach by a gang of teenagers while he was unhappily in foster care.  She was told she would only be allowed to meet the boy she had brought up, who loves his “Nan” and whom she has never harmed in any way, on strict condition that no reference could be made to his injuries and how his jaw had been broken.
Now the grandmother, who formerly made something of a name for herself in showbusiness, is having an equally bizarre argument with the boy’s social worker over how the two of them should spend three hours of the 25 hours of “contact” they are allowed each year.  Granny wants to take the boy to his favourite restaurant for lunch, as he wishes.  But this has been forbidden by the social worker, quoting a judge’s instruction that their contact sessions must be “activity related”.  He therefore suggests that the boy should be taken to a McDonald’s, which he hates, or that the foster carer should provide him with a packed lunch. As for the rest of the contact, the social worker suggests that the boy should be taken to a bowling arcade, which costs £8.50 for a single game, and which he also hates, or for a walk on the same “beech” (sic) where his jaw was broken last year in the incident they are forbidden to mention.
How on earth could we have created a system which allows a little jobsworth social worker to throw his weight around in this absurdly dehumanised way, which makes a complete mockery of the claim that the system’s only concern is to put “the interests of the child” first?

See also the aforementioned “Don’t ask your grandson how his jaw got broken, say social workers” (from September, 2012):

A chilling recent episode exemplifies what, to an outsider, is yet another a shocking feature of our state “child protection” system.  This is the ruthless way in which, when children are taken into care, social workers try to drive a wedge between their new charges and members of their families who have done them no harm and are closer to them than anyone else in the world.
Last month, an 11-year-old boy was taken to the seaside by his foster carer.  There he was attacked on the beach by a gang of teenagers who left him to be taken to hospital with a broken nose and jaw.  No one was more concerned to hear about this than his grandmother, into whose care he and his 16-year-old sister had been given when they were removed from her former daughter-in-law and her new partner for abuse and neglect.
When the girl ran away from home after a verbal tiff, she was taken into care.  Shortly afterwards, a Romanian social worker arrived at the boy’s school to remove him as well.  Terrified, he tried to escape by scaling a 12ft fence, crying, “I want my nan!”  She had given him the only real sense of loving security in his life.  From then on, the grandmother was only allowed to see the boy at occasional contact sessions, closely watched by a social worker in a council contact centre.
As is not uncommon in such circumstances, they were both made to sign a long list of conditions on which continuing contact could be allowed.  Expressions of affection must be limited to a “brief hug” at the beginning and end of each session, which had to be initiated by the boy.  They were forbidden to make any reference to his “case” or why he was in care.  There must be “no whispering”.  No reference must be made to his foster home or social workers.  The boy could not be shown photographs except by written permission obtained in advance.  Any breach of these or some 15 other rules would end all contact.  His grandmother was forbidden to have contact with him in any other way.
When she heard two weeks ago that he had left hospital after the assault, she asked to be allowed to see him.  She was told they would be allowed a brief “one-off contact”, but only on condition that no reference was made to his injuries or what happened on the beach.  When the grandmother called the police to ask whether any charges were to be brought against the boys responsible for assaulting her grandson, she was told they were to take no further action, on the advice of the social workers who had “parental responsibility” for the boy.
Again and again, I have heard how social workers impose almost totalitarian control over how contact sessions are conducted.  Frequently, children look terrified as they try to remember everything they have been told, by social workers or foster carers, that they must not talk about.  When families are foreign, they are strictly forbidden to speak to each other in the language normally used at home. […]
Politicians gave social workers the opportunity to abuse their power like this, through the Children Act.  It is only, alas, politicians who can end the appalling mess that they thus unwittingly called into being.

Update III (5 November):  more from Christopher Booker, in “Why do judges in our family courts ignore the law?” (apparently, it’s because they can):

It is a basic principle of British justice that no one should be sent to prison except in open court, so that [his or her] name can be known and why [he or she has] been jailed.  But this has long been one of those basic principles that are routinely ignored in our ultra-secretive family courts.  […]
In recent years, I have come across many cases of judges continuing to break the law in this way.  In one instance, a father who had already lost his two teenage sons because they were held to be “at risk of emotional abuse” from their mother, from whom he had separated, was before a judge who wanted to order the removal for adoption of his third son, aged four.  When the father left the courtroom in disgust, the judge ordered his arrest for contempt.
While he was in custody, his new partner, still at home and fearful that the little boy might also be removed, panicked and took him to a secret destination.  The judge summoned the father back to court to ask where they had gone.  Since his partner’s flight was on the spur of the moment, the father explained, truthfully, that he had no idea.  Refusing to believe him, the judge angrily sentenced him in secret to 12 months.  The police tracked down the woman, who was convicted of kidnapping the boy but let off with a caution.  The father was released after six months in prison, but given a penal notice forbidding him to have any further contact with his boys, all now in foster care, whom he had brought up and who loved him.

Update IV (11 November): sadly, it never ends, as Christopher Booker reports in “Another couple flee to France only to have their baby taken away”:

Last year I reported the shocking story of Marie Black and Joe Ollis who escaped to France for the birth of their first child, after learning that Norfolk social workers intended to seize it at birth on the grounds that Marie had previously been in a violent relationship with another man, who was by then out of her life.  The social workers tracked down the couple and, after baby Luna was born, returned, with the approval of a British judge, to deport the child to England.
Fortunately, the couple had been put in touch with a robust British solicitor, Brendan Fleming, who took their case to the High Court.  Here, a more senior judge ruled that, since Luna was born in France and was therefore, under an EU law called Brussels II, “habitually resident” there, the British authorities had no jurisdiction over her.  He ordered the social workers to return the baby to her parents in France.
Far from our social workers having learnt any lesson from this case, I have lately been following one which is almost a carbon copy.  Another couple fearful that Bedfordshire social workers might seize their first child at birth, again on the grounds that the mother had previously been in an abusive relationship, set off to start a new life in France.  A few days ago their baby was born in a French hospital, by caesarean section, and given a French birth certificate.  The next day, the mother returned from a shower, covered only in a bath towel, to find her room filled with 10 French policemen and her baby gone.
The policemen were holding a piece of paper indicating that they had been sent by Interpol, at the instigation of the British authorities, to remove the child on the grounds that the mother was a dangerous woman who might harm her baby.  The couple were shocked to see that much of the description of her was factually wrong.  It was also clear that they could only have been traced by someone hacking into emails they had sent since their arrival in France.

See also an American case, “Child Spends Five Years in Foster Care Because Mom ‘Belligerent’ toward Child Protective Workers”, by Roger Franklin:

It’s the bureaucratic mindset at work.  In this case we see a two-year-old boy taken from his mother’s care for no apparent reason.  Her anger about that then becomes cause to terminate her parental rights and whisk the child into either permanent foster care or adoption (Seattle Times, 20/10/13).
Back in the days of the Viet Nam war, there was a saying among those who opposed the U.S.’s involvement – “If you’re not angry, you’re just not paying attention.”  Well, from the looks of the case reported in the Seattle Times, the mother, who’s identified only as B.R., was paying attention all too well.
It seems B.R. was cooking in her kitchen one day in 2008.  She was working near hot a hot surface and had her hands full, so she handed her son, who was not quite two, to an uncle to care for.  The said uncle was soon spied by a neighbour dangling the child by one leg from a balcony.  Soon enough, B.R. recovered the child from his uncle and went inside.  Nevertheless, the neighbour apparently reported the matter to the local Department of Social and Health Services, i.e. the child welfare agency.
For reasons we can only guess at, the DSHS took the child from B.R. and into foster care.  That was five years ago, and he’s been there ever since, because the DSHS has been attempting to terminate B.R.’s parental rights.  Why?  Well, it’s not because she hasn’t done everything they’ve required of her, and apparently it has nothing to do with her parenting abilities or her bond with her son.
No, DSHS has spent five years trying to wrest a child from a mother’s care because B.R. behaved in an angry fashion toward DSHS personnel.  Imagine that!  Imagine a loving parent becoming angry with child welfare caseworkers who were only trying to permanently shanghai her son away from her and into foster care! The nerve of that woman!  […]
If we want to look reasonably at this woman, it’s not hard to see that she, like most other parents, was absolutely terrified of the power of DSHS.  And yes, she probably did adopt ways of dealing with her fear and anger that might not be the most conducive to mollifying the bureaucrats who are used to having parents roll over and play dead when DSHS comes calling.  B.R. sounds like that rarest of birds, a parent who believes she has parental rights and the state can’t do anything it wants to just because.
So they taught her a lesson.  They showed her just how they can make a parent pay, not for being a bad parent (there’s no evidence that B.R. is that), but for asserting her parental rights in an insufficiently subservient manner.  […]
B. R. does not have a mental illness.  What she has is a perfectly healthy and normal response to the outrageous abuse of power we see every day by child welfare personnel.  Hers is a sane response to an insane situation.  Yes, she could make it easier on herself if she were to learn the art of concealing her perfectly legitimate anger behind a façade of gentility.  She may want to learn how to bow meekly and say “yes sir” and “no ma’am,” and feign respect for the people who have the power to walk into her house any day and walk out with her child.

Update V (24 November): no, it will never end, whilst the current people in charge remain the people in charge, as Christopher Booker reports in “We can send you to jail for objecting to an offence we’ve yet to specify”:

What an odd country we are, prepared to give record sums for the victims of the Philippines disaster […] but oblivious to the scandal whereby thousands of families are torn apart each year for seemingly no good reason by our secret family courts system.
The only public figure who appears to acknowledge that the best way to root out the frightening abuses of that system is to open it up to “the glare of publicity” is the man who is now head of it—Sir James Munby, president of the family courts.
One particular abuse at which his admirable but so far fairly lonely campaign is directed is the “draconian gagging” of parents who feel that they and their children have become victims of “punishment without crime”.
So far, his fellow judges have shown little sign of supporting him.  In yet another harrowing case […] two foreign-born parents are so angry at what they see as the unjustified snatching of their five children by social workers that […] they have been using Facebook and YouTube to blazon their case across the internet.
This has so enraged the judge in the case that […] she recently issued unusually tough gagging orders, threatening them with prison not only if they breathe a word about their case to anyone outside the courtroom, but also if they discuss a long list of subjects when they are allowed to meet their children, now living unhappily in foster care, during supervised “contact sessions”.
Not a word can be spoken to the children about any aspect of their “case”, such as plans being made for their adoption.  The parents are thus forbidden to speak to the children in their own language.
But what particularly strikes outsiders who have seen the “contact order” is a clause threatening the parents with prison if they “discuss any matter that the contact worker indicates is inappropriate”.  As one with some legal experience asks, “Under what law has a judge been authorised to threaten a parent with imprisonment simply because some person, unspecified, may consider that some matter, unspecified, is not ‘appropriate’?”