Forced Marriage Is Now A Criminal Offence
Forced marriage is now a criminal offence punishable by up to seven years imprisonment.
It is estimated that approximately 8,000 women a year are victims of forced marriage.
Under Part 10, Section 121 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 which came into force on the 16th of June 2014, "a person commits an offence under the law of England and Wales if he or she uses violence, threats or any other form of coercion for the purpose of forcing another person to enter into a marriage, and believes, or ought to reasonably believe, that the conduct may cause the other person to enter into the marriage without free and full consent."
Since 2008, the Courts have been able to issue Forced Marriage Protection Orders in order to protect a person who has been or is being forced into marriage against their wishes. Breach of such an order is now also a criminal offence.
Many have expressed concerns that the new laws will discourage victims from seeking help due to fear that their family members will be sent to prison. Nonetheless, forced marriage is an issue of violence against women and a violation of human rights and its criminalisation recognises this.
The change in the law is a massive step in the right direction but proper education must be provided to young girls in communities where forced marriage is a regular occurrence in order for there to be an impact.