Duncan Lewis

Family Law

know matters can be both

highly sensitive and confusing

Forced marriages to become criminal offence an announcement is due by the Prime Minister

Date: (7 June 2012)    |    

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The speculation in relation to criminalising forced marriages would be laid to rest when the Prime Minister will announce whether forced marriages should be outlawed.

The announcement is expected any time this week by David Cameron when he would make it clear whether forced marriages would become a criminal offence with a maximum prison sentence of up to five years.

The prime minister said last year that he wanted to see forced marriages made a criminal offence as it was little more than slavery and completely wrong.

But his idea was met with some sceptism from those who worked with the victims of forced marriage who say that such step would in fact discourage the young women involved to disclose the nature of abuse and coercion in the hands of their own families.

Considering all the apprehensions being raised the prime minister had requested the Home Office to launch a consultation to try and make sure that nothing prevented the victims from reporting abuse against them. The consultation closed in March and the prime minister would announce tomorrow the results with the home secretary Theresa May.
Since March a finely balanced argument has raged in Whitehall over whether it was possible to define and enforce a new criminal offence that would depend upon young women being prepared to provide the evidence that could send their own parents to prison. People working with such victims too fear that the law could be circumvented by taking the potential victim abroad.
The Home Office says the number of forced marriages was increasing with estimates of as many as 5,000 to 8,000 cases a year. The government's forced marriage unit revealed earlier this year that a five-year-old girl had become Britain's youngest victim and was one of 400 children to be helped by the unit last year. Many cases involve families from Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and east Africa.
The Home Office has traditionally been opposed to the idea arguing that the existing laws on human trafficking, kidnapping and abduction are more than enough to deal with the problem.
But the prime minister has backed the move making clear saying that the public, especially women, would support criminalisation..