Forced Marriage – A Criminal Offence

Some people may confuse the terms ‘arranged marriage’ and ‘forced marriage’ and may even consider it to be the same thing. The difference between an arranged marriage and a forced marriage is the element of consent. An arranged marriage will usually involve some form of introduction by friends, family etc however both parties give their consent to the marriage and are willing to marry. A forced marriage is where a person is made to marry someone against their will.

The issue of forced marriages is one which is highly sensitive and emotive with many people being too scared to report a forced marriage due to family pressure, cultural restrictions and the risk being ostracised from their families and communities.

Currently, people can obtain a Forced Marriage Protection Order through the Civil Courts. A Forced Marriage Protection Order can help if a person is being forced into a marriage or if they are already in a forced marriage. Each Order is unique to each case based on its circumstances and will include legally binding conditions and directions that influence the behaviour of the person(s) that is or are trying to force you into marriage. The aim of the Order is to protect the person who is being forced into a marriage against their wishes.

The Home Office has said that the Forced Marriages Unit has provided support and advice in almost 600 cases last year.

The Prime Minister has announced that Forced Marriage is to be a criminal offence. Full details of the offence, implications and sentence are currently unknown however it is said that the civil remedy of a Forced Marriage Protection Order will remain as a civil option.

The Prime Minister has said ‘forced marriage is abhorrent and is little more than slavery. To force anyone into marriage against their will is simply wrong and that is why we have taken decisive action to make it illegal.’

Concerns from some groups have been raised that this may deter people from coming forward and reporting forced marriages if they are aware that it will be a criminal offence however the general feedback has been positive.

If you require advice and assistance in relation to a Forced Marriage please contact our family department on (0116) 2554855.


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