Forcing someone to marry against their will could become a criminal offence under plans set out by Prime Minister David Cameron today.
Mr Cameron announced he was making it a criminal offence to breach an order issued by the courts to prevent a forced marriage and he has asked Home Secretary Theresa May to consult on whether the practice should be made an offence in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The cross-party Commons Home Affairs Committee called earlier this year for forced marriage to be criminalised, but its recommendation was rejected by the Home Office in July for fear that it would discourage victims from coming forward.
The Prime Minister announced today he was asking Mrs May to rethink the decision in a speech in central London in which he outlined measures to get immigration under control, including “stricter and clearer” tests on those claiming the right to settle in the UK to be with their spouses.
“Forced marriage is little more than slavery,” said Mr Cameron.
“To force someone into marriage is completely wrong. And I strongly believe this is a problem we should not shy away from addressing. But I know that there is a worry that criminalisation could make it less likely that those at risk will come forward. “So, as a first step, I am announcing today that we will criminalise the breach of Forced Marriage Prevention Orders. It’s ridiculous that an Order made to stop a forced marriage isn’t enforced with the full rigour of the criminal law.