I’m publishing the press release because it explains everything
Conservative Party Leader David Cameron today unveiled measures to clamp down on forced marriages. Describing the practice of forced marriages as â€œutterly bizarre and frankly unacceptableâ€ he said a Conservative Government would consider making them illegal.
Key proposals are:
* The age limit to be raised to 21 for both spouse and sponsor for marriages from abroad.
* Spouses to register before going abroad to marry.
* Potential spouses coming to the UK to take the â€˜Life in the UKâ€™ citizenship test.
* Awareness packs for schools on how to deal with the problem.
* Childrenâ€™s Services Departments to be given greater role in protecting vulnerable children.
During a visit to Bradford David Cameron will say:
“An important part of that is recognising the powers we already have. Nearly all the methods used to force women into marriage and keep them in it – intimidation, assault, rape, kidnap and murder – are already crimes in themselves. We should be enforcing our laws to stop it from happening and making sure the people behind them are arrested and where necessary locked up.
“But itâ€™s not just about the powers weâ€™ve already got. At the moment, the Forced Marriages Act, which we supported, only makes it possible to pursue civil prosecutions. The argument runs that it is unlikely that victims will come forward if it means pressing criminal charges against their parents. But we shouldnâ€™t close this door â€“ and if the current legislation doesnâ€™t work in ending forced marriages, the Conservative Party would consider making them a criminal offence.
“Where we definitely will act is around the actual marriage phase. The key is to make sure that both parties have agreed to a marriage â€“ and that they are old enough to have made that decision.
“A Conservative Government will increase the minimum age for any spouse coming to Britain, and their British partner, to 21. Whatâ€™s more, there will be separate, private interviews for both groom and bride. And everyone who comes to live here must have a basic level of English â€“ that way, theyâ€™ll be better able to integrate into British society and more aware of their rights.
“It also means local authorities, social services and schools all playing their part in looking out for it â€“ and acting when they suspect it.
“Thatâ€™s why a Conservative Government would make sure schools were aware of how to deal with the situation when there are children who they suspect will be taken out of the country for forced marriages. We would also classify local authorities as a relevant third party under the 2007 Forced Marriage Act. That way, schools could pass information onto childrensâ€™ services departments and they could then make an application for a Forced Marriage Protection Order on behalf of the child.”
A Conservative Government would take the following ten steps to tackle forced marriages:
Action by the central government:
1. For marriages from abroad, raise the age limit for both spouse and sponsor to 21 years of age. This will help crack down on child brides being brought into the UK.
2. A â€˜code of conductâ€™ must be developed for Entry Clearance Officers and Home Office Officials, which includes separate interviews of the spouse and the sponsor. There should be separate, private interviews for both groom and bride, allowing those who are being forced into marriage to speak freely and openly.
3. A time requirement before those who have been previously married to a spouse from overseas are allowed to bring in another spouse from oversees. This would help to prevent fraudulent marriages, and mistreatment of young wives. There evidence that currently some men who come here on a spousal visa leave their British wives after being granted Indefinite Leave to Remain in order to act as the UK sponsor in order to bring over a new wife.
4. A requirement for spouses to register before going abroad to marry. An interview should also be conducted in private prior to registration being granted. If a person admits that they are being forced into marriage, or if there is sufficient suspicion, registration can be denied. Failure register will result in the marriage not being recognised in the UK. They will forfeit the rights of married people in the UK and non-EU citizens will not be able to enter the UK on a spouseâ€™s visa.
Action by individuals:
5. Both spouses must have a basic knowledge of English before they come to the UK. This will help both spouses integrate into British society and be more aware of their rights.
6. Potential spouses coming to the UK should take the â€˜Life in the UKâ€™ citizenship test. The test helps people to improve their English and learn more about life in the UK. This will help spouses integrate into British society and be more aware of their rights.
Action by schools:
7. We will issue schools with awareness packs on how to deal with children who they suspect have been taken, or are likely to be taken, out of the country for forced marriages. With on the ground access, schools are best placed to identify where children are at risk. They will then be able to notify Childrenâ€™s Services Departments who have a responsibility for child welfare.
8. We will classify Childrenâ€™s Services Departments (CSDs) as a relevant third party under the 2007 Forced Marriage Act. Schools will be able to pass information on to CSDs and they could then make an application for a Forced Marriage Protection Order â€“ without the courtâ€™s permission â€“ on behalf of the child.
9. We will require CSDs to keep a register of children who have been removed from schooling, or who have gone missing. If, after liaising with parents, the CSD has grounds to believe the child will be or has been forced into marriage, they would be able to make an application for a Forced Marriage Protection Order under the powers above.
10. We will monitor the impact of the 2007 Act to assess whether we need to consider creating a new criminal offence in the future. The new civil arrangements need time to bed in, but we will carefully monitor the situation and if the current legislation is ineffective then a future Conservative Government would consider criminalising the practice of forced marriages.
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