Forced Marriage Law Comes into Effect
A law has now come into effect in England and Wales, which makes forcing people into marriage a criminal offence, and punishable with a prison sentence.
Although courts have been able to issue forced marriage protection orders since 2008 – a civil order that prevents a person from having to marry against their will – it was thought that more could be done to prevent situations getting that far.
The new law being put into place is thought to act as a deterrent and will protects thousands of potential victims every year. Under the new law, potential victims of forced marriage England and Wales, as well as UK nationals overseas, will be afforded more protection.
An official description of forced marriage has been issued by the Home Office, describing it as one in which either, or both, spouses are coerced into a marriage they do not consent to by means of financial, psychological, physical, emotional or sexual pressure. The Home Office clarified that “coercion is not required for marriage to be forced” when it comes to someone who lacks the capability of consenting, such as a vulnerable adult.
If someone is convicted of forcing another into marriage, that person could be sentenced to prison for up to seven years under the new law, while violating a forced marriage protection order is also considered a criminal offence and could mean being sentenced to five years in jail.
The Association of Chief Police Officers’ Commander Mak Chishty described the criminalisation of forcing someone into marriage as an important step and gives the police the definition they need to be able to better deal with cases in the future. “[It] gives us the ability to take people to court and get a criminal conviction,” he said, “and that is a very powerful message to deter people in the future.”
“Forced marriage is a tragedy for each and every victim,” explained Theresa May, Home Secretary. She said that the UK is one of the world leaders when it comes to trying to stamp out forced marriage with the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) trying to tackle cases in the UK and abroad. “Today’s criminalisation is a further move… to ensure victims are protected by the law and that they have confidence, safety and the freedom to choose.”