What is forced marriage and how can it be prevented?

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A forced marriage is a criminal offence and occurs when either or both parties do not, or cannot, consent to the marriage. Either or both parties will have been coerced into the marriage by the perpetrator, and this may involve abuse or threat of abuse. Those who force a marriage upon an individual or individuals usually have the intent of seeking financial advantage, improved social standing, or both.

The law also applies to perpetrators sending UK nationals overseas with the intention of them becoming the victim of a forced marriage. The offence carries a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment.

However, forced marriage is very rarely reported to the police. Instead, it will often be brought to the attention of other bodies such as schools and support groups/charities, for example, the Halo Project.

Forced marriage is a form of domestic abuse or child abuse, as well as a severe breach of human rights. Domestic abuse is defined as an “incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence” and is not limited to taking place in intimate partner relationships. It can, and often does, take place between family members.

Forced Marriage Protection Orders

A Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) is a Civil Court Order. It will often prohibit the person attempting to force the marriage from having any further contact with either or both of the parties, who have not consented to the marriage.

The breach of such an Order was made a criminal offence in 2014 and carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. The Order may be granted for an indefinite period.

A recent case in Peterborough involved a father who was forcing marriage upon his daughter, who was located in Pakistan at the time. He received a 26-week prison sentence which was suspended for two years. A Forced Marriage Protection Order was in place, which meant that the police were able to arrest the father immediately upon suspicion that he had breached the Order. The father claimed that he had thought the Order expired when his daughter turned 18. However, it had been granted for an indefinite period, and remains in place indefinitely following the breach.

The daughter, her mother and her brother returned to the UK, and the perpetrator was informed that he was to have no further contact with his daughter in any way.

If you or someone you know has been affected by forced marriage, or the threat of forced marriage, the contact details of the Halo Project can be found below:

Telephone: 01642 683 045

Email: info@haloproject.org.uk