IS FORCED MARRIAGE REALLY EVEN AN ISSUE?
Yes. To put it quite bluntly.
This issue remains to be underreported, however, there has been positive progress to raise awareness and support those struggling. It is very important that countries, communities and individuals work effectively to assist and put in place safeguards, preventative and protective measures.
Okay to start with, let me give you some figures from the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) Statistics 2018 document (released on 24/05/2019).
Did you know:
- The FMU handles between 1,200-1,400 cases per year;
- In 2018, the FMU gave advice and provided support in 1,764 cases;
- In 2018, 75% of the cases involved women;
- Forced marriage is not a problem specific to one country or culture and the FMU has dealt with cases relating to over 110 countries.
These statistics are readily available online should you want to drill down into the figures further.
WHAT IS A FORCED MARRIAGE?
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Act 2014 made forced marriage a criminal offence. This type of issue typically refers to when an individual(s) causes a person to enter into a marriage without their free and full consent. The ‘force’ can be through threats, psychological coercion, physical harm (s.63A(6), FLA 1996) and financial abuse.
WHAT IS CLASSED AS A MARRIAGE?
In line with s.63S, FLA 1996, this is a religious or civil ceremony. Remember, this applies whether or not it is legally binding.
PUBLICITY OF THE ISSUE
Thankfully, there has been a substantial increase in raising awareness of the issue and this publicity has led to greater responsiveness and increased contact with the FMU. The FMU has advised on £1,764 cases in 2018.
Further, the media have highlighted two cases where individuals have been prosecuted in respect of this matter. I will mention the following:
- This case referred to a mother from Birmingham being found guilty of forcing her daughter to travel to Pakistan and forcing her to marry an individual nearly twice her age;
- There is also the publicised case of a couple being found guilty of misleading their daughter and travelling to Bangladesh to attempt to force her to marry an individual.
I am a Solicitor-Advocate experienced in criminal law and in my experience I can tell you that the sentences were seen as being far more serious than many members of public envisaged. This, of course, does not apply as a blanket statement to the entire public. I guess more awareness will need to be raised in respect of the sentencing consequences individuals can face. This is surely a great deterrent in itself.
WHAT ARE THE SENTENCES FOR FORCING SOMEONE TO MARRY?
If you force someone to marry, it could result in a sentence of up to 7 years imprisonment and if you breach a Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) it can result in a sentence of up to 5 years imprisonment. Remember, that a failure to comply with requirements or terms of an FMPO granted by the Family Court, is a criminal offence and can result in a sentence of up to 5 years imprisonment.
WHAT IF I AM A VICTIM AND AM SCARED OF REPERCUSSIONS?
There are excellent organisations (such as the FMU) which can assist you every step of the way in order to best protect you during this difficult time period. There is also the support of the Police should you feel at the risk of immediate danger. The legal sector is also primed to help you. Further, it is also brilliant to note, the government have introduced lifelong anonymity for victims forced to marry and this will encourage victims to come forth and seek the support they deserve.
The FMU can be reached on [email protected] or telephone: 020 7008 0151.
WHAT IS A FORCED MARRIAGE PROTECTION ORDER?
The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 introduced provisions into s.1(2) FLA 1996. This aims to protect individuals from being forced into marriage, any attempts at being forced and also provides assistance if an individual has already been forced into a marriage. These can be applied for by the victim, a relevant third-party or anybody granted leave from the court to make the application.
This article has set out to provide you with some initial information in respect of Forced Marriages and is drafted by our very own Head of Family Department, Azhar Hussain. If you would like to have a confidential, free and non-obligatory chat, please feel free to contact LPS Solicitors on 08009961807