Forced marriages to be a crime in Britain

June 8th, 2012 - 7:46 pm ICT by IANS  

David Cameron London, June 8 (IANS) Forcing someone to marry will become a criminal offence in Britain and “will not be tolerated”, Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday.

The decision to create a specific offence of forced marriage follows a 12-week consultation which took views from the public, victims, charities and frontline agencies.

The new law will be accompanied by measures to increase protection and support for victims and a continuing focus on prevention, according to an official statement.

“Forced marriage is abhorrent and is little more than slavery. To force anyone into marriage against their will is simply wrong and that is why we have taken decisive action to make it illegal,” Cameron was quoted as saying.

“I have listened to concerns that criminalisation could force this most distressing issue underground. That is why we have a new comprehensive package to identify possible victims, support those who have suffered first hand and, indeed, prevent criminality wherever possible.”

“I want to send a clear and strong message — forced marriage is wrong, is illegal and will not be tolerated,” he said.

Home Secretary Theresa May said it was “the right of every individual to make their own choices about their relationships and their future”.

“Forced marriage is an appalling practice and by criminalising it we are sending a strong message that it will not be tolerated.”

“But we know that legislation alone is not enough and we will continue to work across government and with frontline agencies and organisations to support and protect victims,” May said.

The Forced Marriage Unit runs a helpline providing support and advice to victims.

This year alone till May, the Forced Marriage Unit has provided advice or support to nearly 600 cases. Embassies and High Commissions also work to rescue British victims facing forced marriage overseas, and help them return to their country.

A forced marriage is one in which one or both spouses do not — or in the case of some vulnerable adults, cannot — consent to the marriage but are coerced into it. It is not an arranged marriage. In an arranged marriage, both parties have consented to the union but can still refuse to marry if they choose to.

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