Britain raises age limit for marriage visa

July 24th, 2008 - 7:15 pm ICT by IANS  

London, July 24 (IANS) The British government has raised the minimum age at which a married person can apply to join spouse in Britain from 18 to 21 as part of efforts to stop forced marriages. Statistics show 30 percent of the cases dealt with by the government’s Forced Marriage Unit involved victims aged between 18 and 21 - many of them young women from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

“Forced marriage leads to victims suffering years of physical and mental abuse and - in extreme cases - unlawful imprisonment and rape. It has no place in our society,” Home Secretary (minister) Jacqui Smith said Wednesday.

“That is why we are raising the age limit for visas, checking anyone entering into a marriage does so of their own free will, and demanding that those coming to the UK learn English,” she added.

Smith said foreign spouses will have to enter into an agreement to learn English before they come to Britain and that British citizens wishing to marry overseas would have to register their intention before they leave the country.

“Any British citizen applying to ’sponsor’ someone to come to the UK as their spouse will have to declare their intention before they leave the UK and marry abroad. This will mean that a young person will know in advance that a marriage will take place overseas and who their prospective partner will be,” said the British minister added.

The practice of forced marriages is particularly widespread among South Asians in Britain, with some 3,000 complaints brought before the government every year.

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