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The End of the Shot Gun wedding – Forced Marriages become illegal
A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used. It is an appalling and indefensible practice and is recognised in the UK as a form of violence against women and men, domestic/child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.
The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be physical (including threats, actual physical violence and sexual violence) or emotional and psychological (for example, when someone is made to feel like they’re bringing shame on their family). Financial abuse (taking your wages or not giving you any money) can also be a factor.
On the 16th June 2014, it became a criminal offence for parents to force their child to marry. Parents found guilty of this crime can face a sentence of up to 7 years imprisonment. It applies to people forced into marriage in England and Wales and also to UK nationals forced to marry abroad.
These new laws further bolster the provisions which already existed and which allowed applications to be made both by and on behalf of a potential victim for Forced Marriage Protection Orders. Breach of a forced marriage protection order has also become a criminal offence and if found guilty can be punished by up to 5 years imprisonment.
These new rules are however not the end of the matter and there is concern amongst campaigners that the new laws will not make much difference as the victims may not want to report the issues as they do not want their family to be imprisoned or criminalised.
The government’s Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 1,302 cases last year. Of the cases dealt with 82% of victims were female and 18% male while 15% were under the age of 15. The cases involved 74 different countries with 43% relating to Pakistan, 11% to India and 10% to Bangladesh. Given that these are only the cases which came to the attention of the unit, it is likely that the actual number far exceeds this and it is hoped that these new laws will not only give further protection by way of deterrent but also raise more awareness of the issue both generally and to ensure that people are aware that they have the full backing of the government and legal system in supporting their right to choose and not be forced into a marriage against their will.
At Breeze & Wyles Solicitors Ltd we are to able to advise on forced marriages and all forms of domestic abuse. We understand that these are extremely sensitive issues and as such we aim to provide friendly and easy to understand advice to ensure that our clients are informed of all of the options available to them.
If you require advice about forced marriages or any form of domestic abuse please contact a member of our family law department to arrange an appointment with one of our specialist Family Law Solicitors on 01992 642 333.
Henal Gautam – (Associate) Qualified as a solicitor in 2004 and joined the Family Department at Breeze and Wyles Solicitors Ltd in 2005. Specialising in family law specifically relating to children. Representing parents, family members and children in a wide variety of public law cases. In addition adoption and special guardianship and representing parents in s8 Children Act proceedings. Henal deals with most of her own advocacy, being instructed in a number of complex cases involving cruelty to children and serious allegations of harm, adoption within the UK and overseas.
A member of the Law Society Children’s Panel, Resolution and the Association of Lawyers for Children, Henal is also a Trustee of the Broxbourne East Hertfordshire Domestic Violence Forum and the Hertford Contact Centre.
Samantha Murphy – (Assistant Solicitor) – A Graduate of the University of Hertfordshire, who then completed her Legal Practice Course at City University Law School in London. Samantha qualified as a Solicitor in April 2012, working in a local High Street firm. Samantha specialises in family and matrimonial matters, including divorce, separation, children, finances, and cohabitation disputes.
Samantha is passionate to ensure people can obtain access to justice by providing correct and practical legal advice in order that people can make informed decisions. Samantha is committed to resolving disputes in a non-confrontational manner by adopting the Resolutions Code of Practice.