Forcing someone to marry will become a criminal offence in England and Wales, the Prime Minister announced today.
The decision to create a specific offence of forced marriage follows a 12 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. More than half a million pounds worth of funding, delivered over the next three years, will help deliver measures including:
Helping those working in education to spot the earliest signs of forced marriage 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
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
Engaging communities through a nation-wide programme focussed on prevention and education
The UK is already a global leader on work to tackle forced marriage. The unique cross-departmental Forced Marriage Unit runs a helpline providing confidential support and advice to victims and professionals, and conducts a nation-wide outreach programme in schools and statutory agencies across the country. This year alone (January to May 2012), the Forced Marriage Unit has provided advice or support to nearly 600 cases.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
"To force anyone into marriage against their will is simply wrong and that is why we have taken decisive action to make it illegal.
"I have listened to concerns that criminalisation could force this most distressing issue underground. That is why we have a new comprehensive package to identify possible victims, support those who have suffered first hand and prevent criminality wherever possible.
"We have spent time with those who work tirelessly to raise and address this issue and I want to send a clear and strong message: forced marriage is wrong, is illegal and will not be tolerated."
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
"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."