Forced marriage is now a criminal offence under new legislation introduced today (16 June). Previously, protection from forced marriage was available only under civil law – the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007. The 2007 Act made provision for civil courts to make Forced Marriage Protection Orders against individuals suspected of trying to force someone into marriage.
The breach of a FMPO has now become a criminal offence. Offenders could face a maximum five years in prison, and / or an unlimited fine. The maximum penalty for the new offence of forced marriage is seven years in prison.
Last year, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Forced Marriage Unit helped more than 1300 people. Many victims are taken overseas by family members where they are forced to marry, and the new legislation will allow British law enforcement agencies to pursue suspects overseas where a UK national is involved.
The new legislation has been welcomed by groups supporting victims of forced marriage, as well as those working to raise awareness of the issue. Anita Prem of the charity Freedom, said: “Today’s announcement sends out a powerful message that this indefensible abuse of human rights will be not be tolerated.”
Dr Ash Chand of the NSPCC described the new legislation as “a huge step forward which we hope will deter those plotting against their own children.”
Home Secretary, Theresa May, also announced that later in the summer, the Prime Minister is to host a summit dedicated to action against forced marriage.
If you have concerns about a forced marriage and would like to talk to someone in confidence, call Razia Jogi on 01274 720314, or call our emergency helpline 0800 138 5536, 24 hours a day.