Criminalisation a vital weapon in fight against forced marriage

The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation welcomes the Government’s announcement today that it plans to make forcing someone to marry a criminal offence.  IKWRO has been campaigning for the criminalisation of forced marriage since 2006.

“Perpetrators of forced marriage will now be held accountable for their actions and could be sent to prison,” said IKWRO’s Director Diana Nammi. “The UK is sending an unequivocal message to parents who may consider forcing their daughters or sons to marry that their actions will not be tolerated.  This is a vital weapon in the fight against forced marriage.”

The Government is proposing to keep the existing civil protection for victims of forced marriage in place, while recognising forced marriage as a crime and enabling victims who want to seek justice through the courts to do so.

“Forced marriage is a violation of human rights in itself, and can lead to physical violence, imprisonment, rape and even ‘honour’ killing.  Women and girls from minority communities have suffered these violations for too long.  The new law will empower them with the knowledge that what is happening to them is wrong and can be stopped.”

Diana Nammi is available for interview.  Telephone 07862 733511.

Notes to editors

The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) is a registered charity which provides advice and support to women and girls from the UK’s Middle Eastern communities who are facing forced marriage, ‘honour’ based violence and other forms of abuse.

A forced marriage is a marriage in which one or both parties do not consent (or in the case of minors and some adults with learning difficulties do not have the capacity to consent) and where duress is involved.  Duress can involve physical, sexual, psychological, emotional or financial pressure.  The government’s own Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 1500 cases of forced marriage in 2011, including 300 cases which involved minors.

Under the Forced Marriage Act 2008, forcing someone to marry is a civil wrong but not a criminal offence.  A person who is at risk of or has experienced forced marriage can apply to the courts for a Forced Marriage Protection Order to protect them from their family, spouse or other perpetrators.

In October 2011, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would make it a criminal offence to breach any of the provisions of a Forced Marriage Protection Order, and would hold a public consultation on whether to criminalise the act of forcing someone to marry.  During the consultation, some groups expressed concern that creating a new criminal offence could deter some victims of forced marriage from coming forward, but IKWRO argued that criminalisation would empower victims, and the threat of prosecution would be an important deterrent for parents and other perpetrators.

The Government today announced plans to criminalise forced marriage, with further details available from the Number 10 Press Office.  While forced marriage will be a crime under the new law, the Crown Prosecution Service will issue guidance to ensure that a prosecution is not pursued without the victim’s consent.  The new law will also maintain the existing civil protection for victims of forced marriage while enabling those who want to seek justice through the courts to do so.

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