Arranged marriages are commonplace in many cultures and countries. For many they represent the normal way in which a man and woman should meet and be joined in matrimony. Yet in many cases the bride is unwilling to marry, but is forced to go ahead regardless of her wishes or beliefs.
Forced marriage has a devastating effect on its victims, and yet at present this practice is not illegal in the UK.
This week, the Home Secretary Theresa May launched a consultation to look at the law on forced marriages. At present, forced marriage can give rise only to a civil law claim under the Forced Marriage Act 2007.
This Act allows courts to issue a forced marriage protection order if a victim, friend or the local authority acts to bring the matter to their attention. If this court order is breached, a two-year prison sentence can be handed down.
Yet the act of forced marriage itself is not a criminal offence, and it is this which the Home Secretary is looking to change.
It is hoped that a new criminal offence would act as a deterrent to a practice which is growing year on year in the UK.
The Forced Marriage Unit gave advice on just over 1,700 cases last year, up from 1,600 two years previously. Yet the full scale of the problem is unknown, with some claiming that as many as 8,000 women could be forced into marriage in the UK each year.
"There are a wide range of strongly held views on making forced marriage a criminal offence. We want to hear from victims and from those who work in the field before we come to a decision on the best way to protect these vulnerable people," said the Home Secretary.
The consultation is set to run until the end of March 2012.
Read more on the story (The Telegraph)
Forced marriage - getting help (FindLaw)
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