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Forced Marriage to Be Criminalised; Will It Drive the Practice Underground?

By Periscope @periscopepost
Bride and groom

Forced marriage will become illegal. Photocredit: PedroCancion

The background

British Prime Minister David Cameron and the Home Secretary, Theresa May, have announced plans to make forced marriage a crime. The Home Office, reported The Telegraph, said it dealt with about 120 cases a month; the real figure is thought to be five times that amount.

Social workers and other officials will be trained to spot the practice and move to stop it. Brides will be allowed to decide whether their parents should be prosecuted, and the law will distinguish between forced marriage and arranged marriage. A similar law exists in Scotland, reported the BBC.

The Forced Marriage Unit says that 78 percent of victims are women; 56 percent involved people with learning disabilities; 10 percent were gay or lesbian. Hitheroto there have been “forced marriage orders” in civil courts, rather than it being a criminal offense. Some say that it will drive the practice underground; but most welcome it.

“Forced marriage is abhorrent and is little more than slavery. To force anyone into marriage against their will is simply wrong and that is why we have taken decisive action to make it illegal,” said David Cameron.

Loopholes in the law

Mandy Sanghera, who advises the government on forced marriage, said it was imperative that a loophole be closed which allows people without the capacity to consent to marriage to act on visa forms. Opponents, reported the BBC, worry that people will be afraid of coming forwards for fear of criminalising their families.

Forced marriage is just another form of abuse

It’s shocking that it’s not a criminal offense already, said Joan Smith in The Independent. It exposes women to “repeated rape.” But there’s also the “scandal” of vulnerable people being targeted. People have not wanted to “stigmatise” communities where it takes place, listening to “male, conservative and elderly” soi-disant “community leaders.” There are organisations that help such women; but it’s not enough. We musn’t be afraid of being “culturally insensitive.” Forced marriage should be condemned as forcefully as “any other form of domestic abuse.”

Theresa May has handled the issue well

The Sun’s editorial was thankful, saying that Theresa May should be praised for tackling the issue, and for “doing it with such sensitivity.” And she’s given power to the victims, by letting brides choose whether to prosecute. She’s given them “the freedom to choose.”

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