[QODLink]
Europe

UK law banning forced marriage takes effect

Those found guilty of the largely hidden practice face up to seven years in prison.

Last updated: 17 Jun 2014 03:42
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Home Secretary Theresa May described forced marriage as "a tragedy for each and every victim" [Getty Images]

British legislation banning forced marriage has come into effect, with those found guilty of the largely hidden practice facing up to seven years in prison.

The law applies not only within Britain but also makes it a criminal offence to force a British national into a marriage abroad, as many youngsters are flown out to weddings in their ancestral homelands, particularly in
Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

Nearly two-thirds of the cases dealt with by the government's Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) relate to Britain's South Asian communities.

Campaigners welcomed the new laws which came into effect on Monday as a "huge step forward", while the
government hopes they will protect potential victims.

A practice wrecking the lives of unknown thousands of British-born youths, forced marriage has been increasingly exposed in the last decade.

'Tragedy' for victims

"Forced marriage is a tragedy for each and every victim, and its very nature means that many cases go unreported," said Home Secretary Theresa May.

"I am proud to say that the UK is already a world leader in the fight to stamp out this harmful practice with the government's FMU working hard to tackle this terrible practice in the UK and overseas.

"Today's criminalisation is a further move by this government to ensure victims are protected by the law and that they have the confidence, safety and the freedom to choose."

Last year, the FMU dealt with some 1,300 cases - 18 percent of them men.

Forty percent of victims were aged 17 or under; three quarters were aged under 22.

Officials fear the number of victims coming forward is just the tip of the iceberg.

Meanwhile charities say few leaders with influence in their communities are prepared to take a stand, for fear of losing their support base.

The cases related to 74 different countries, although 43 percent were linked to Pakistan, 11 percent to India and 10 percent to Bangladesh.

Other countries with multiple cases included Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran and Tunisia.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said children as young as 12 had contacted them about forced marriage, with the numbers calling up two-thirds in the last year.

The charity's Ash Chand called the new law "a huge step forward which we hope will deter those plotting against their own children.

"Many young people who call our ChildLine service about this issue are frightened, concerned and feel control of their lives is being wrenched from them."

 

 

418

Source:
AFP
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
Referendum on Scottish independence is the first major election in the UK where 16 and 17-year olds get a vote.
Blogger critical of a lack of government transparency faces defamation lawsuit from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Farmers worry about their future as buyers shun local produce and rivers show an elevated presence of heavy metals.
War-torn neighbour is an uncertain haven for refugees fleeing Pakistan's Balochistan, where locals seek independence.
NSA whistleblower Snowden and journalist Greenwald accuse Wellington of mass spying on New Zealanders.
join our mailing list