Criminalising forced marriage: Debates in the UK

Gangoli, Geetanjali and McCarry, Melanie (2008) Criminalising forced marriage: Debates in the UK. Criminal Justice Matters, 74 (1). pp. 44-46. ISSN 0962-7251

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The issue of forced marriage has recently become the focus of both national and international debate (Schmidt and Jakobsen, 2004; FCO and HO, 2005). Forced marriage is a human rights violation, and its impact has significant gendered consequences. In cases regarding minors, forced marriage also has to be considered as a child abuse issue (Gangoli et al., 2006). However, recent initiatives in the UK have been criticised for their emphasis on encouraging immigrants to adopt ‘British’ values and avoid marrying partners from their country of origin (Razack, 2004). Further, commentators have argued that some proposals are more geared to control immigration into the UK than to tackle forced marriages. Evidence for this is supported by the recent consultation on increasing the entry age on a marriage or fiancé visa for sponsors and applicants from 18 years to 21 or 24 as a way to combat forced marriage. The assumption behind this proposal is that many cases of forced marriage take place across international borders, and involve young people, who lack educational and professional independence to effectively refuse a forced marriage.

This article examines the debates around criminalisation of forced marriage in the UK by looking at existing legal provisions on forced marriage; the national consultation on criminalisation; and will conclude by analysing criminalisation as a strategy to combat forced marriage.

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