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Criminalisation of Forced Marriages

Criminalisation of Forced Marriages

An estimated 8,000 young women a year are forced into marriages.

At present, forced marriage in England and Wales is not a specific criminal offence. On 8 June 2012, The Prime Minister announced that the Government has decided to make Forced Marriage a criminal offence. Under Planned new laws parents who force their children to marry in England and Wales could be jailed. Home Secretary Theresa May said forced marriage was an "appalling practice" and criminalising it would send "a strong message that it will not be tolerated". It is already illegal in Scotland.

After a 12-week consultation which took views form the public, victims, charities and frontline agencies the majority of people agreed that forcing someone to marry should be a criminal offence. Criminalisation will send out a strong public message that forced marriage is socially and legally unacceptable; this in turn will hopefully create a change in people’s attitudes and beliefs towards forced marriage. Currently there is no criminal offence for emotional and psychologically forced marriages. With the introduction of a specific criminal offence it will hopefully rectify the loophole in current criminal legislation.

The government are also looking into forced marriage protection orders (FMPO) and want to go further and criminalise the breach of a FMPO in order to protect vulnerable people.

Alongside this legal framework what is also required is proper support, prevention, education and enforcement. The Halo Project aims to provide guidance and training to all frontline agencies ahead of the legislation coming into place.

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