Law against forced marriages comes into force


by Sunny
28th November, 2008 at 8:50 am    

The BBC reports:

Laws to prevent forced marriages and protect those who have already fallen victim have been introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The laws mean anyone convicted of trying to force someone into marriage could be jailed for up to two years.

A victim, friend or police can apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order. These court injunctions will forbid families from actions such as taking people abroad for marriage, seizing passports or intimidating victims.

People are split over the law – not just Asians generally but the women’s groups themselves. Some like Karma Nirvana want a specific law against forced marriage that makes it a criminal offence (something the Tories propose to do). Others like Southall Black Sisters, who drafted this bill with Lord Lester, wanted to skirt around it so that victims don’t feel that their parents will be put into prison.

To be honest, I think the second situation is more confusing than the first. We’ll have to wait and see if this symbolic piece of legislation has any real impact. Otherwise I bet the voices calling for full criminalisation will get louder. And just to make it clear: forced marriage isn’t itself legal, but the police have to use other laws (kidnapping, coercion etc) to charge someone rather than charging them and the family straight for forcing someone into a marriage. I’m in favour of this act, but I do want it to go further.


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  1. Kismet Hardy — on 28th November, 2008 at 9:29 am  

    “wanted to skirt around it so that victims don’t feel that their parents will be put into prison.”

    That’s exactly the mentality that needs to be stamped out. My lady works as an advocat for women suffering domestic violence and there are so many evil scum that get away with it precisely because these women feel like they have to protect their perpetrators, or worse still, think they’ll be judged by the community for dobbing in the prick.

    Make it 100% illegal. No ifs or buts or pussy footing. Send the message out that forcing a woman to do something she doesn’t want to in Britain is every bit as against the law as robbery, because that’s exactly what these community’s-judgement-fearing parents have been doing – stealing their daughter’s lives and getting away believing that it’s not an arrestable offence.

    Lock them all up, make a big deal of it, then these frightened women will realise that justice is actually on their side after all

  2. Ashik — on 28th November, 2008 at 9:35 am  

    Criminalisation of FM fails to consider the strong family ties among South Asians and especially Pakistanis, the target group. Knowledge that ones parents may be imprisoned for up to two years will actually deter some victims and potential victims from seeking help. Some victims, while quite rightly wishing to choose their own marriage partners nevertheless would prefer to continue living with their families and naturally don’t want to lose contact with parents and siblings.

  3. Philip Hunt — on 28th November, 2008 at 9:38 am  

    “anyone convicted of trying to force someone into marriage could be jailed for up to two years”

    I’m curious as to why this length of sentence. Surely the maximum should be the same as aiding and abetting rape?

    Kismet Hardy: “Make it 100% illegal. No ifs for buts or pussy footing. Send the message out that forcing a woman to do something she doesn’t want to in Britain is every bit as against the law as robbery, because that’s exactly what these community’s-judgement-fearing parents have been thinking – that it’s not an arrestable offence.”

    Quite right. If people considering breaking the law think that they will not be severely punished even if caught, then there is no deterrent.

  4. Philip Hunt — on 28th November, 2008 at 10:23 am  

    Ashik: “Some victims, while quite rightly wishing to choose their own marriage partners nevertheless would prefer to continue living with their families and naturally don’t want to lose contact with parents and siblings.”

    If someone wishes to continue living in the same house as someone who conspires to have them repeatedly raped, they are just asking for trouble.

  5. fugstar — on 28th November, 2008 at 11:36 am  

    i wonder how the message is going to be put accross to the ‘civicly insulated’ parents who subject there kids to such control measures.

    i wonder how its going to end up being used/misused and the effects it will have on families and near neighbour families around such incidents.

    might embolden some girls and boys also though.

  6. sarah — on 28th November, 2008 at 12:06 pm  

    TYhanks for covering this Sunny. The title of this post is classic!

  7. fugstar — on 28th November, 2008 at 12:16 pm  

    in saudi the punishment for rape is death.

    rapists know this, and so kill their victims.

    if parents have their kids under emotional control, whats to say they wont use this ‘you want to send us to jail’ issue as more emotional currency.

    government is so crap at these things, its unbeleivable. social reform forces are where its at.

  8. Kismet Hardy — on 28th November, 2008 at 1:40 pm  

    Sorry fugstar that doesn’t follow. Aside from the rare cases of dishonourable killing, parents don’t generally kill their daughters. They just make them suffer. Using your example of ‘emotional currency’ is just another form of causing that suffering.

    These women need to know that if they want to cut and run from the suffering, the family won’t send out a lynch mob because they fear prison and, unlike in the case of raped women who rarely see a successful conviction, see justice working on the women’s behalf for a change

    So I sort of agree with you

  9. Galloise Blonde — on 30th November, 2008 at 11:48 am  

    Philip Hunt: As I understand the Civil Law, its focus is around getting exlusion orders for potential vicitms of FM. So the two year sentence mentioned would be for breaking an exclusion order gained under the Act. If a girl was forced into marriage and raped she has, and always has had, the option to report this as rape, and to work with police to prosecute her rapist and any accessories to the rape, but AFAIK no-one has ever yet done so.

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