Forced marriage was criminalised in the UK in 2014 under Part 10 of the Anti-social behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. In May 2018, a mother was jailed for 4 and a half years after luring her 17 year old daughter to Pakistan to marry a man twice her age and, later in the same month a couple were found guilty of forced marriage offences after taking their daughter to Bangladesh on a sham holiday in an attempt to marry her cousin.
‘Force’ includes psychological threats, physical threats and even encompasses threats directed at someone else. For example, situations where an individual is made to feel like they are letting their family down if they do not consent to a marriage, can be a psychological threat. The definition also includes situations where an individual has “agreed” to a marriage, but in reality didn’t have the choice to refuse.
Often victims and survivors of forced marriage do not want to pursue criminal sanctions against their perpetrators, because their perpetrators are often their own parents. They may wish to be protected without their parents being punished. In such cases a victim at risk of forced marriage can seek protection from the Family Court, by obtaining a Forced Marriage Protection Order (“FMPO”). An FMPO is an order which prevents the respondents from harming the applicant or from doing anything which might harm the applicant by forcing him or her into marriage.
An application for an FMPO can be made by the victim themselves or a by a local authority or the police. In June of this year, South Yorkshire Police successfully obtained a FMPO in respect of a 19 year-old man who had been receiving threats after his parents had agreed to a marriage on his behalf when he was 5 years old. The application for an FMPO could also be made by a concerned friend, a teacher, a support worker or a relation.
An FMPO can be tailored to the circumstances of a victim and the court has a wide range of powers to protect them. For example, where there is a risk that the victim may be taken abroad against their will, the court can order the perpetrator to hand over passports or any other travel documents. Respondents to an FMPO can include any persons in the UK or outside the UK, who are or have been involved in the forced marriage. The High Court also has powers to make a child ward of the court so that it assumes parental responsibility for a child, which overarches that of the child’s parents. The court can also seek to facilitate the return of a child who has been left abroad against their will in relation to a forced marriage.
There is no application fee to apply for an FMPO and means tested legal aid is available. It is a criminal offence to breach any part of a forced marriage protection order.
The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is a joint Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Home Office, set up in 2005. The organisation operates both inside the UK and outside the UK. Within the UK, it provides support to individuals and outside the UK, in extreme circumstances; it can facilitate the rescue of victims and survivors of forced marriage, held against their will, with the assistance of the British Embassy.
The FMU can be contacted by phone on +44 (0) 207 008 0151 and by email on email@example.com.
Written by Trainee Solicitor Nasbin Begum
family law, forced marria, family law, forced marr