Forced Marriage

On 25 November 2008 a new law relating to forced marriage came into force. The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 (FMA) enables a civil court to make orders to protect women who have been or are at risk of being forced into marriage. These orders offer wide-ranging protection. For example, a judge can order that a marriage is prevented from taking place that someone is stopped from being taken abroad or that a persons passport is handed over. It is important to remember, however, that whereas an application to court for a forced marriage civil protection order can stop a marriage from taking place, it does not give a judge the power to annul a marriage that has already taken place. This means that proceedings for annulment must be issued separately.

One very positive aspect of the FMA is that it includes a wide definition of force. Given that many girls and young women are forced into marriage without there having been any physical force at all, the legislation specifically states force includes not just physical force, but psychological coercion as well. It is also worth noting that the FMA protects women whatever the legal status of their marriage. Many marriages which take place in England and Wales may be valid according to the religion or culture of the parties concerned but they are not valid under English law. The FMA does not distinguish between them and offers protection regardless of the legal status of the marriage concerned.

The Forced Marriage Unit can be contacted on 0207 008 0151

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