We campaign to prevent forced marriage and to protect those at risk. We believe that all people have the right to decide whether they want to get married and to choose their own marriage partner. This right is recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
In the UK, forced marriage is a major problem and last year the government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) dealt with 1500 cases. The Forced Marriage Act 2008 made it possible for people who are at risk of forced marriage to get a court order which bans their families from taking certain actions. The Forced Marriage Act also created legal duties for public bodies such as schools, social service departments and the police to improve their response to forced marriage and to protect those at risk.
Yet under the current law, forced marriage is not a crime. Since 2006, IKWRO has been campaigning to persuade the government to make forced marriage a criminal offence. We believe that this empower young people who are at risk with the knowledge that what is happening to them is illegal and can be stopped, and will send a much stronger message to perpetrators of forced marriage that their actions will not be tolerated. IKWRO strongly welcomed the Prime Minister’s recent announcement that he plans to criminalise forced marriage and we look forward to seeing new legislation on this in the near future.
Of course, criminalisation isn’t the only answer, and alongside the new law more work in schools to educate young people about their rights is also vital. Teachers, the police and social services need training to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations, and greater efforts to change attitudes within communities alongside more support for victims are also important.
Through our training programme IKWRO is working to build awareness too.
Read more about criminalisation of forced marriage.