Ministry of Justice
Thursday 10 May 2007 @ 00:02
The Government today pledged its support for legislation aimed at protecting the victims of forced marriages and preventing them from taking place.
The Forced Marriages Bill is a private member's Bill that was introduced to Parliament by Lord Lester. The Government has been working to strengthen the draft legislation and laid amendments to the Bill in April that would provide greater powers for the courts to identify and protect victims of forced marriages.
The amendments will be debated in the House of Lords today during the Committee stage of the Bill.
Cathy Ashton, minister at the Ministry of Justice said:
"I'm delighted to be able to provide Government support for this Bill which, as amended, will enable us to make better use of civil court remedies to provide protection to those placed in this intolerable position.
"The changes to the law will enable courts to order injunctions and other measures to prevent forced marriages, and in some cases to attach powers of arrest if those orders are breached. They will become a powerful and useful new tool for those trying to protect victims of forced marriage."
Under the Bill, where a forced marriage has taken place, courts would be able to make orders to protect the victim and help remove them from that situation. As victims of forced marriage are often unable to protect themselves, the Bill enables third parties to be able to apply to courts for protection on their behalf. Furthermore, courts would be able to attach powers of arrest to orders so that if someone breaches an order they could be arrested and brought back to the original court to consider the alleged breach.
Additionally the Bill would enable county courts to hear forced marriage cases which can presently only be heard by the High Court.
Government support of the Bill greatly enhances the likelihood of it receiving sufficient Parliamentary time to complete its passage and become law, subject to approval by both Houses of Parliament.
Notes to Editors
1. Private Members' Bills are Public Bills introduced by MPs and Lords who aren't government ministers.
2. Forced marriage is an infringement of the basic right to choose who you marry and when you marry. The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Bill 2006-07 was introduced to Parliament on 16 November 2006 by Lord Lester of Herne Hill.
3. The amendments to the Bill and its progress can be viewed on the Parliament website: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/pabills/200607/forced_marriage_civil_protection.htm
4. The joint FCO/Home Office Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) was established in January 2005 and is the first of its kind in the world. The FMU assists around 300 victims of forced marriage each year and also deals with policy implementation and provides information and assistance to concerned professionals.
5. On 8 May 2007 Baroness Scotland and Lord Triesman launched the Government's two-year strategy on tackling forced marriage. For more information visit: http://www.fco.gov.uk/Files/kfile/FMU%20Two-Year%20Strategy.pdf