Further Measures to Combat Forced Marriages

A summary of responses to the consultation on the criminalisation of forced marriage was published today by the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), as part of its ongoing programme of work to tackle the issue.

The consultation document ‘Forced Marriage: A Wrong Not a Right’ was published in September 2005 and set out the potential advantages and disadvantages of creating a specific criminal offence relating to forced marriage. A total of 157 responses were received from organisations and individuals across the UK.

While there was no clear majority among respondents about whether or not a specific offence of forcing someone into marriage should be created, the majority felt that the disadvantages of creating new legislation would outweigh the advantages and potentially drive forced marriage underground.

Three recommendations for non-legislative activity will now be taken forward. These are:

  • Increasing the level of training to professionals who work in this field and engaging more with affected communities
  • Increasing the work done with statutory agencies in sharing best practice and implementing guidelines
  • Ensuring that existing legislation is fully implemented including making better use of civil remedies and the family courts. The possibility of developing new legislation will only be considered once there has been delivery in all three areas.

Home Office Minister the Rt. Hon Baroness Scotland QC said: “Forced marriage is an abuse of human rights and a form of domestic violence which cannot be justified on religious or cultural grounds. This consultation has been very useful in stimulating debate and generating recommendations from those with expertise in the field. 

“Before we consider the possibility of introducing specific legislation, we need to be convinced that it would definitely benefit the victims of forced marriage. Many respondents feared that the creation of a specific offence could isolate victims, prevent reconciliation and drive forced marriage further underground.

“In the future, we will continue to provide information and assistance both to potential victims and to concerned professionals who are confronted by this abuse.”