Forced Marriage Made Illegal By Law In The UK

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The UK has just brought about a new landmark law regarding forced marriages (note: different to arranged marriages) which will hopefully send a loud and clear message to countries everywhere: it is wrong!

Forced marriage has become a criminal offense, punishable by law with new legislation passed just last week. Under the new law, it is illegal to force a person to marry against their will using physical, psychological, emotional, financial or sexual abuse, and people found guilty can be sentenced to a maximum of seven years in prison.

Before the new law came about, there was a civil order called the Forced Marriage Protection Orders which were used to penalize people suspected of trying to force someone to marry. But now with the clear new law, there are no grey areas or loopholes that anyone can try to utilize.

UK Home Secretary Theresa May spoke about the law and how proud she was that the UK is now a world leader in legislation of this nature.

“Forced marriage is a tragedy for each and every victim, and its very nature means that many cases go unreported,” she said in a statement.

“I am proud to say that the UK is already a world leader in the fight to stamp out this harmful practice with the government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) working hard to tackle this terrible practice in the UK and overseas. Today’s criminalization is a further move by this government to ensure victims are protected by the law and that they have the confidence, safety and the freedom to choose.”

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“This summer, the prime minister will also be hosting the UK’s first summit dedicated to galvanizing action against forced marriage and related issues.”

“In the most tragic cases, people forced into marriage become domestic slaves by day and sexual slaves by night. Today’s announcement sends out a powerful message that this indefensible abuse of human rights will be not be tolerated. Everyone should have the freedom to choose.”

In the lead up to the launch of the new law, Theresa May joined forces with anti-child marriage non-profit Freedom, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and a victim of the practice to make a video detailing why forced marriages are crime against humanity and freedom. Forced marriages become a breeding ground for honor killings which have been rife in the UK, especially amongst Indian and Pakistani communities who have no law protecting them from parents and family members forcing traditional institutions upon them.

But the UK has been lobbying for this type of legislation for quite some time. In 2012, Prime Minister David Cameron publicly denounced the practice as “abhorrent” and said it was not that different from slavery.

Honor killings and forced marriages are another way to suppress women’ freedoms and their basic rights. While the majority of these types of traditions happen in Asian countries, with the vast migration patterns that have been happening in the UK over the past 50 years, the country has been seen as a place for many of these ethnic groups and communities to continue their practices since there are no laws that will condemn them. Until now.

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People may fear that the new anti-forced marriage laws will push the practice further underground, but it is a step forward in empowering women and groups to be able to have UK legislation on their side in protecting their rights.

Many are saying the law sends a powerful message across the UK, especially since it is quite extensive. It all applies to UK nationals all over the world – whether they’re in the UK or they’ve been taken out of the country and forced to marry elsewhere.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) made an animated film depicting why forced marriage is a bad thing, because there are instances where education and awareness becomes the key to changing the way families treat children.

In 2013 the Forced Marriage Unit reportedly dealt with just over 1300 cases, but those were the cases which were reported. While the majority of forced marriages affect women, (82%) 18% were male, and 15% were under the age of 15.

We’re so thrilled to hear that the UK government is stepping up and taking drastic measures to protect the futures of the many girls and boys who previously had no way out of these circumstances. Let’s hope it indeed does go a long way to educating families to continue to perpetuate this dangerous tradition why it must be stopped, and show abusers that the oppression of women will not be tolerated.

arranged-marriage

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