It’s Now Illegal In The UK To Force Someone Into Marriage

Each year, 8,000 women in the UK alone are at risk of being coerced into marriage...


by Sophie Wilkinson |
Published on

When it comes to scold's bridles, dowries and that canny tradition of checking a newly married couple’s sheets to ensure the union has been consummated, all of those oldy worldy approaches to the treatment of marriage are, at least in the western world, consigned to history. That stuff just doesn’t go on anymore. However, 8,000 women in the UK alone are forced into marriages every year. Yep, in 2014.

Thankfully, today a new law has come into effect in England and Wales which make illegal to force someone into marriage. Though the courts have been able to issue case-by-case orders to prevent individuals being kidnapped and put into an unwanted marriage since 2008, this is the first time that the act of making someone marry another person against their will has been considered a criminal offence.

The government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) managed to deal with 1,302 cases last year, however, this is just over an eighth of those actually trapped into marriages against their will each year in the UK. However, considering family members are normally the ones to instigate forced marriages, victims are sometimes too afraid to report them for fear of getting their family into trouble.

Of the cases the FMU did look at, 43 per cent of them related to Pakistan, 11 per cent to India and 10 per cent to Bangladesh; the rest were made up of 71 other countries. 82 per cent of the victims were female and 15 per cent were under 15.

Home Secretary Theresa May said forced marriage is ‘a tragedy for each and every victim,’ and that the new criminalisation of it was ‘a further move by the government to ensure victims are protected by the law and that they have the confidence, safety and freedom to choose.’

And for the first time there is a proper definition of forced marriage, which makes the police’s job easier, according to Mak Chishty, from the Association of Chief Police Officers. According to the Home Office, forced marriage ‘is one in which one or both spouses do not consent to the marriage but are coerced into it’ through ‘physical, psychological, financial, sexual or emotional pressure.’

The NSPCC has seen calls made to them from young people fearing forced marriage treble in the past three years; around a quarter of those who got in touch were aged between 12 to 15. However, women’s charity Refuge doesn’t see this new law as a solution. ‘Legislation alone will not end this form of abuse’ a spokesperson told The Metro.

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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