A New Law Makes Forced Marriage A Criminal Act In UK

Forcing someone into marriage will carry a seven year jail sentence.

A new law which criminalises forced marriage in England and Wales has come into effect today.

Under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, the government hopes the new law — which will carry a maximum seven-year sentence — will protect thousands of potential victims.

Courts have previously been able to issue civil orders to prevent victims being forced into marriage, but this is the first time that forced marriage is being treated as a criminal offence.

Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters

Home Secretary Theresa May said she was proud of the UK’s role in combating the crime, saying that “forced marriage is a tragedy for each and every victim.”

Over 75% of cases reported to the Home Office’s Forced Marriage Unit in 2013 involved victims from South Asian, Middle Eastern, or North African backgrounds, with 73% of the victims under the age of 21.

Glenn M. Eilers, Edmonton/Glenn M. Eilers, Edmonton

According to the NSPCC, the number of children — some as young as 12 years old — who rang ChildLine worried they could be forced into marriage has nearly trebled in the last three years.

Critics of the new law argue it could deter victims from coming forward because they do not want to see parents and family members jailed.

Really hope criminalizing forced marriage doesn't stop victims asking for help for fear of seeing parents imprisoned http://t.co/k7BXGAyOXE

— Huma (@Huma101)

Other campaigners have said that it “is a huge step forward.” The new law will also apply to UK nationals who are at risk of being forced into marriage abroad.

Landmark moment as #forcedmarriage becomes criminal act in UK today. In July we'll host a major summit to end this practice here & abroad.

— Justine Greening (@JustineGreening)

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