Forced Marriages Initiative

Statistics show that approximately 70% of marriages which take place between a British- Asian and a spouse from the Sub-Continent, are forced or involve an element of coercion. A recent Government study has projected a figure of 3,000 forced marriages a year, and we are told the reality is a lot worse. So what exactly is this practise and how has it been allowed to reach this level?

Forced marriage is a subject which has provoked much debate in recent years, but many people are still unaware as to what it actually constitutes: arranged, coerced, and forced marriages have all fallen under the same umbrella. The lack of distinction between these different matters highlights the absence of true understanding of the concept by many people. Furthermore, it indicates an unawareness of the cultural practises of the Asain Muslim community. Consequently, this has a bearing on how to deal with actual cases of injustice. It is MAT’s view that this problem can best be addressed by the Muslim community itself, but can this be done? And if so, how?

The introduction of the Forced Marriage Act 2007 was a step in the right direction, however, it is not the complete solution. It currently requires the victim to be proactive and come forward and apply for a protection order. But will all such victims be confident enough to apply for such an order at the risk of facing acts of recrimination by family members?

A more discrete approach would be more effective, however, the question arises as to whether an English judge dealing with such matters would be culturally sensitive enough to identify a genuine problem. Who is able to protect the interests of a potential victim whilst at the same time not curbing the genuine and legal practise of Asian Muslim community?

In 2008 MAT launched it’s proposals for discussion and support of the Muslim Community to root out forced marriages in their midst.

MAT published a report detailing a plan of action for community, government and other NGOs to tackle the issue of force/coerced marriages.

Following on from MAT’s initiative, and following a public consultation, the Prime Minister announced on 8 June 2012 that the government intended to make forcing someone to marry a criminal offence in England and Wales; and to strengthen the civil law in England and Wales by making the breach of a Forced Marriage Protection Order a criminal offence.

These proposals were part of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act, which received royal assent on 13 March 2014. The new offences come into force on 16 June 2014.

Under s.120 of the 2014 Act, the maximum penalty for breach of a forced marriage protection order is five years imprisonment.