Today the Prime Minister announced a package of measures intended to help victims of forced marriage, and to prevent individuals in the future being forced into marital unions against their will.
This action is welcome- forced marriage is an often hidden problem which has marred the lives, and impinged the freedom, of people across the UK. Statistics from the Forced Marriage Unit show that forty five percent of recently identified cases of forced marriage involve victims under the age of eighteen, the youngest individual being only five years old.
The Government will now place legislation before Parliament which would render forced marriage a criminal offence, this action being complemented by increased investment in the education and safeguarding teams best placed to spot the earliest signs of forced marriage. This twofold approach is intended to deter parties that may bring a forced marriage about, and ensure that any signs of such activity are detected quickly and the appropriate action, newly supported in law, is taken.
In parallel with this the Forced Marriage Unit will be given all the support they need to continue their work of assisting victims of forced marriage, domestically and in cases involving British nationals abroad.
This package of measures form part of the Government’s wider commitment to tackle violence against women and girls. The UK is now a signatory to the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence and Ministers will continue to pursue policies that, in addition to providing enhanced support for victims, criminalize activities, for too long tolerated, that harm women and girls.
The Government has my full support at it continues to take decisive action to address practices that are intolerable in the twenty first century and that continue to blight the lives of far too many women and girls in the UK.