Forced Marriage is a criminal offence but it remains a widespread issue within the UK. In 2017, the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) gave advice and support in relation to 1,196 possible forced marriages. Of these cases, 29.7% involved victims below the age of 18 and 29.5% concerned victims aged between 18 and 25.
The majority of forced marriage cases involve the victims being taken abroad to be married without their consent, but 10% of the cases dealt with by the FMU in 2017 had no international element at all, with the forced marriage activity taking place exclusively within the UK.
What is a forced marriage?
A forced marriage occurs when the (proposed) bride or groom has no say as to whether the marriage takes place and is forced, either as a result of threats, physical violence or emotional abuse, into getting married against their free will.
Forced marriages are not the same as arranged marriages, which are common and perfectly legal. In arranged marriages, family members plan and agree the marriage, but the bride and groom are free throughout the process to say yes or no. If the proposed bride and/or groom are denied this choice, this constitutes an illegal forced marriage.
What can be done?
The Civil Courts have wide-ranging powers to grant Forced Marriage Protection Orders (FMPOs) to prevent forced marriages from taking place. These injunctions can prohibit a person from being forced into a marriage and can require the surrender of passports and travel documents to the Court, to prevent the risk of overseas travel. FMPOs can be extended to third parties who may become involved in the process at a later stage, and can prevent them from aiding, abetting or conspiring with another to commit the offence. This includes activities such as booking flights to enable the forced marriage to take place overseas.
The FMU operates within the UK and overseas and as well as providing safety advice, they can arrange the rescue of victims being held abroad against their will and for the purpose of a forced marriage. They can also prevent unwanted spouses from entering the UK on a spousal visa.
If the forced marriage has already taken place, you may be able to apply to the Court for an annulment if the marriage took place within the last three years, or you can seek a Declaration of Non-Recognition of the marriage in the UK Courts.
If you require advice on forced marriage and what protective safeguarding measures can be put in place, or you need assistance on terminating a forced marriage that has already taken place, please contact Shivi Rajput on 0203 146 7304.