Forced Marriage

How does the law protect those facing the prospect of a forced marriage?

A “Forced Marriage” arises where at least one party to the marriage does not consent to the marriage and a level of physical and/or emotional duress is involved. The nature and severity of such duress varies from case to case and can include but is not limited to the following; verbal and physical abuse, threats of harm and unlawful imprisonment, controlling behaviour and more.

A person being subjected to a forced marriage can often feel trapped and isolated, and as though they have no way of expressing their personal views or having a choice over the intended unity. However, help is now available and those being either forced into a marriage, already in a forced marriage or who have someone attempting to force them into a marriage have redress to the Courts.

On the 25 July 2008, The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 1997 came into force and a new section, Part 4A was inserted into The Family Law Act 1996 to offer protection to those facing the prospect of a forced marriage. The Act was implemented with the aim of preventing and deterring forced marriages whilst providing practical remedies to those suffering as a result of such arrangements.   

Where there is evidence of a forced marriage, the Court now has a wide range of powers and can make Orders containing numerous prohibitions, restrictions and requirements to ensure that the Applicant is adequately protected. Such prohibitions, restrictions and requirements can include; a) seizing passports, b) protecting a person’s whereabouts, c) forbidding families from certain undertaking actions and d) preventing a person from being taken abroad.

The Human Rights Act 1998 “confers upon men and women of marriageable age the right to marry and found a family according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right” and it is therefore imperative that parties are free to choose their spouse and to conduct their relationships as they, not others, see fit.  

If you require assistance please contact our Family Department.

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