Increase in Forced Marriage
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 makes it a criminal offence to force someone to marry against their will. This is different from an arranged marriage where you have a choice of whether you wish to get married or not.
The 2014 Act makes it an offence:
- To take someone overseas to force them to marry, irrespective of whether the marriage takes place;
- To marry someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage, whether they are pressured or not; and
- To breach a Forced Marriage Protection Order.
A forced marriage is one where one or both parties to the marriage do not consent and violence, threats or any other form of coercion is used. This can be emotional, physical or financial pressure.
If you do force someone to marry another person where consent has not been given, you can face a sentence of up to 7 years imprisonment and/or if you breach a Forced Marriage Protection Order you can face up to 5 years in prison.
The UK Government are trying to reduce numbers of forced marriage and assist victims of these crimes. The Forced Marriage Unit is a joint Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office Unit established in 2005 to implement the Government’s forced marriage policy, outreach and casework. The Unit offers advice and assistance to people experiencing forced marriage themselves and professionals working to safeguard vulnerable people and children in the UK.
In 2016, the FMU gave advice or support related to a forced marriage in 1,428 cases. Of the number reported, 371 cases involved children under the age of 18 and 497 were aged between 18-25. They further reported that 80% of the victims were women.
Worryingly the practice is often hidden by families and many victims of this are experiencing emotional abuse if they refuse to comply with the perpetrators requests or demands. Sometimes victims are excluded from their community and threatened with losing family ties if they do not go through with the marriage. This can make the whole experience much more frightening for young people who are being forced into a marriage.
It was recently reported on Family Law week that Childline have experienced a concerning 12% increase in counselling sessions for young people regarding forced marriage.
It is therefore vital that if you are experiencing any of these issues that you seek help to ensure that you are not pressured into anything you do not want to do. The helpline for the FMU is +44 (0) 20 7008 0151. Or you can email them on the following email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We have a dedicated team at Makin Dixon who will be able to assist you secure a Forced Marriage Protection Order to protect children being removed from the jurisdiction if you or a child you know are at risk of being forced into marriage.
If we can assist please do not hesitate to contact us.
Victoria Sempers – Trainee Solicitor