The Solicitor - The FindLaw UK Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

New law to come into force making forced marriage a crime

The UK Government has brought a new criminal law into force that will make it a criminal offence to force someone to marry against their will, reports the BBC.

Forced marriages remain a reality for thousands of people in the UK, many relating to young girls and women from South Asian countries such as Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

However, not all cases involved women, with 18% of victims of male gender.

The UK Government's Forced Marriage Unit said it dealt with 1,302 cases of forced marriage last year, involving 74 different countries. Of all the victims, 15% were under the age of 15.

Up until today the main legal provision concerning forced marriage was the ability of a court to issue a civil court order preventing a forced marriage, with the ability to then impose punishments if the court order is broken.

From today, however, it will be a criminal offence to force someone to marry against their will, whether that is in England and Wales or abroad.

The new law comes into force as part of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. It introduces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

The BBC interviewed Mak Chishty from the Association of Chief Police Officers:

"It's a very important step because for the first time it gives us a definition of what forced marriage is and gives us the ability to take people to court and get a criminal conviction and that is a very powerful message to deter people in the future," he told the BBC.

Forced marriage is defined as a marriage where 'one or both spouses do not consent to the marriage but are coerced into it'. Coercion can take many forms, including the threat of physical violence, psychological abuse, financial coercion or sexual or emotional pressure.