UK: Report Examines Implementation of Forced Marriage Law
Tuesday, May 18, 2010 10:10 AM

The government of the United Kingdom recently published a report regarding the effects of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act that took effect in late 2008. The goals of the Forced Marriage Act were to allow family courts to prevent the occurrence of a forced marriage and to protect the victim of a forced marriage by removing them from the marriage through a Forced Marriage Protection Order. Only civil remedies are established in the Act; forced marriage was not criminalized. The Act acknowledges that forced marriage is an abuse of human rights and is a manifestation of violence against women and children. A forced marriage occurs when at least one spouse does not or cannot consent to the marriage.

The government conducted the study one year after the Act’s implementation. Researchers interviewed judges and court staff, law enforcement, forced marriage voluntary support groups, and members of the Forced Marriage Unit. The study found that that Act is being utilized, although not uniformly, throughout the nation. Underuse is commonly attributed to fear of approaching the courts or agencies' concern related to offending specific populations. Processes established within the Act are relatively straightforward and the judges and court have developed standard templates as they become familiar with the process. 

The report makes several recommendations. First, there is a call for a stronger focus on cooperation between the different agencies to make the process as beneficial as possible for the victim. Second, the research indicates that more publicity and training is necessary to increase awareness within specific, "closed" communities. Third, more research and resources should be directed towards long-term protection and support of the victims. Finally, the report warns of the danger of regarding forced marriage as a problem that is easily solved. “There is a need for action, but also a need for caution and understanding of the impact of an application on a young person who then loses family and community, and will need long term protection and support.”

Compiled from: "One year on: the initial impact of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 in its first year of operation," United Kingdom Ministry of Justice (November 2009).