Ministry of Justice
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Forced Marriages: Protecting the vulnerable
Who should be able to ask the courts to take action to stop a forced marriage? A new consultation exercise launched today is trying to find the answer, with Justice Minister Bridget Prentice working to find the best and most effective ways to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society.
The Government's new Forced Marriage Act was brought in to protect those forced into marriage, whether children, teenagers or adults - and irrespective of background, gender, race or religion. The Act gives the courts a wide discretion to deal flexibly and sensitively with the circumstances of each individual case, employing civil remedies that will offer protection to victims without criminalising members of their family.
The new consultation paper is the first step to implementing fully the range of protections afforded by the legislation. It asks what types of people or organisations should be able to apply direct to the courts for the safeguards to be applied in individual cases. It also asks for practical suggestions on how to make the system work as smoothly as possible and it provides an excellent opportunity for the Government to engage fully with all interested parties and with the public.
Bridget Prentice said:
"This is really vital work. When you look at the situations some of the people affected by forced marriages will be in, it's clear that not all of them will be able to apply personally to the courts for protection. And some victims might not want to take court action against members of their own family. Where this happens we want to make sure that other people or organisations can step in on their behalf.
"It's important that the Act gives victims the power to get Forced Marriage Protection Orders from the courts in whatever circumstances they find themselves.
"The Forced Marriage Act sends out a strong message that this practice is totally unacceptable. It simply will not be tolerated."
Under the act, the court can order those forcing another into marriage to stop; or impose requirements upon them. If a person fails to comply with the court order they could be sent to prison for contempt of court.
The Act supports the work of the joint Home Office and Foreign Office's Forced Marriage Unit and the many voluntary and charitable organisations that provide support.
Notes to Editors
1. The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 (the Act) received royal assent on 27 July 2007. The relevant third party consultation paper can be found at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/cp3107.htm
2. Forced marriage is a marriage without the full and free consent of both parties. It is a form of domestic violence and an abuse of human rights. Forced marriages are not arranged marriages. In an arranged marriage the family will take the lead in arranging the match but the couples have a choice as to whether to proceed. In a forced marriage there is no choice.
3. The Act enables a victim or a relevant third party to make an application for a Forced Marriage Protection Order without the court's permission. Any other person may only apply if they obtain the court's permission first. A relevant third party is a person (or an organisation), specified by the Lord Chancellor who may apply on behalf of another without obtaining the permission of the court.
4. The joint Foreign & Commonwealth Office/Home Office Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is the UK's "one stop shop" for developing Government policy on forced marriage, co-ordinating outreach projects and providing support and information to those at risk. In the past two years, the FMU has produced guidelines on tackling forced marriage for police, social services, health and education professionals, and is producing similar guidelines for registrars and legal professionals.