As of Monday 16th June 2014, the perpetration of forced marriage will be treated as a criminal offence, punishable by a seven year jail sentence under the 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act.
It is hoped that thousands of potential victims will be protected by this new enactment which also criminalises forcing a British National into marriage, even if this takes place outside of the UK.
The Home Secretary, Theresa May stated that she was “proud” that the UK were taking the international lead in combating this type of crime which she described as a “tragedy for each and every victim”.
Originally announced in 2012 by David Cameron who described forced marriage as ‘abhorrent’ and ‘”a little more than slavery”, the Prime Minister will also be hosting the UK’s first summit this summer which will aim to eradicate the injustice of forced marriage and other related issues.
Working closely with Government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), it is hoped that the government will ensure that victims feel confident that the new law will protect them, giving them the freedom to choose.
Forced marriage is defined as a marriage being entered into without the full and free consent of one or both parties, as a result of physical or psychological pressure or abuse. Such abuse may include harassment, kidnap, blackmail, false imprisonment, common assault, actual/grievous bodily harm, threats to kill, child abduction, rape or other sexual offences, immigration offences, fraud, marriage offences, people trafficking and controlling and causing or inciting prostitution.
In 2013 the FMU gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage to more than 1,300 people.
According to the NSPCC, last year, the number of calls received by Childline about forced marriage rose by two thirds compared with the year before, with children as young as twelve years old making contact because they felt frightened, concerned and powerless to act against what was being forced upon them.