LONDON, OCTOBER 27, 2004
Britain is considering proposals to enact a law to prevent forced
marriages of British nationals with origins in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Almost 1,000 cases of suspected forced marriages have been dealt with
since 2000, mainly involving links to South Asian countries.
The Home Office and Foreign Office announced on Wednesday that the
new measures will build on existing work with public agencies, the voluntary
sector and community leaders to raise awareness of forced marriage and
to encourage victims to seek support and advice.
"Forced marriage is part of no one's culture and I think some
people conflate arranged marriage, which is consensual and perfectly
proper, with marriages where people are forced into it. No religion,
no cultural norm says that is Ok. It is a breach of human rights,"
said Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland.
The measures include a new joint Home Office-Foreign Office Forced Marriage
Unit, consultation to be launched later this year on whether to create
a specific criminal offence of forcing someone into marriage; forced
marriage to be targeted as a specific abuse in the revision of key inter-agency
guidance on safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children which
will have statutory backing.
The minimum age for marriage entry clearance in Britain will be raised
from 16 to 18 and an additional forced marriage entry clearance post
would be created in Pakistani capital Islamabad to help reluctant spouses
and increase our ability to support victims.
"Forced marriage is simply an abuse of human rights. It is a form
of domestic violence that dehumanises people by denying them their right
to choose how to live their lives, said Home Secretary David Blunkett.
"The appalling practice of forced marriage represents the opposite
extreme and that is why Government is taking tough action to eradicate
"It is very encouraging that a large number of community and faith
leaders and voluntary organisations have come forward to take a full
part in raising awareness of these problems and the support that is
available. We look forward to working in close cooperation with them
and hearing what they have to say through our consultation exercise,"
Added Foreign secretary Jack Straw: "The new joint Forced Marriage
Unit will develop the good work of our Community Liaison Unit which,
over the last four years, has dealt with almost 1000 cases of forced
marriages and has rescued and repatriated around 200 young people from
"Our high commissions and embassies work intensively with police
and judiciary overseas to stop Britons being forced into marriage. In
difficult and stressful conditions, our consular staff has removed victims
from situations of extreme emotional and physical trauma. They have
rescued victims who have been held captive, raped or forced into an
"However, more can certainly be done and we hope these new measures
will drive forward increasingly effective cooperation between all those
groups who are determined to tackle the abuse, both in the UK and overseas,"