The Government has this week announced plans to make it a crime to force marriage. Whilst this is an admirable step in the right direction (showing the importance of not forcing women – and sometimes men) into marriage, it raises concerns about young people having to report their parents as criminals. It potentially puts young people at risk of dv (domestic violence), sv (sexual violence), and hbv (“honour” based violence).
Hopefully the introduction of this law will not just be an empty gesture, a law that just sits on the statute books but is never enforced or used. What would be more useful is to use the relationships with Mosques, temples and other religious groups to spread the message that Forced Marriage is not acceptable in this country, nor is it acceptable to force it’s citizen’s to be forced into it.
Schools/teachers/youth workers may have a very big influence in trying to protect or alert authorities where girls are worried, or disappear from the registers. Whilst the majority of Forced Marriage in this country relates to South Asians it can occur in any community. Girls may often be taken on holiday or to visit the family from around the age of 13, with around 8000 a year in the UK disappearing. If anyone has concerns they should contact the Forced Marriage Unit at the Home Office.