Forcing someone to marry will become a criminal offence in England and Wales, the Prime Minister has confirmed.
The decision to create a specific offence of forced marriage follows a twelve week consultation which took views from the public, victims, charities and frontline agencies. The new law will be accompanied by a range of measures to increase protection and support for victims and a continuing focus on prevention.
Home Secretary Theresa May said: “It is the right of every individual to make their own choices about their relationships and their future. Forced marriage is an appalling practice and by criminalising it we are sending a strong message that it will not be tolerated.
“But we know that legislation alone is not enough and we will continue to work across government and with frontline agencies and organisations to support and protect victims.”
Building on the work being done nationally and by local agencies and charities on the ground, the government has announced that it will invest more than half a million pounds over the next three years. The funding will help deliver further measures including:
- helping those working in education and safeguarding know how to spot the earliest signs and what action to take;
- helping victims receive the right support in a joined-up way by expanding the current training for relevant professional agencies – including the CPS, police, judiciary, health agencies, and social services, and identify a Single Point of Contact in every local authority;
- making the breach of a Forced Marriage Protection Order a criminal offence;
- raising awareness of the risk of forced marriage abroad through a major summer campaign, highlighting the right to choose and the help available;
- rescuing those who have already become victims overseas and putting in place a comprehensive support package for victims who have been repatriated; and
- engaging communities through a nation-wide programme focussed on prevention and education, delivered through regional road shows and debates.