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5.17 Forced Marriages


Contents

  Introduction
  Motives Prompting Forced Marriage
  The Legal Position
  Symptoms of Risk Factors
  Dealing with Concerns and the "One Chance Rule"
  Notes of Caution
  Flowchart for Cases Where Forced Marriage is Suspected


Introduction

  1. A 'forced' marriage (as distinct from a consensual "arranged" marriage) is defined as one which is conducted without the valid consent of both of the parties and where duress is a factor. Duress includes both physical and emotional pressure and cannot be justified on religious or cultural grounds. Forced marriage is child abuse and can put children and young people at risk of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Children's Social Care has a duty to make enquiries into allegations of abuse or neglect against a child under s.47 Children Act 1989 (and where appropriate s.17 of the Act);
  2. The majority of cases of forced marriage encountered in the UK involve South Asian families. This is partly a reflection of the fact that there is a large population in the UK. Indeed, it is clear that forced marriage is not solely a South Asian problem and there have been cases involving families from East Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. Some forced marriages take place in the UK with no overseas element, while others involve a partner coming from overseas or a British citizen being sent abroad. Most cases involve young women and girls aged between 13 and 30, although there is evidence to suggest that as many as 15 per cent of victims are male;

    The term "Forced Marriage" can cover a variety of crimes including assault, imprisonment and murder where the person is being punished by their family or community for actually or allegedly undermining what the family or community believes to be the correct code of behaviour and therefore bringing 'shame' or 'dishonour' onto the family or community. (Home Office)

  3. Young people, especially those aged 16 and 17, can present specific difficulties to agencies as there may be occasions where it is appropriate to use both child and adult protection frameworks. For example, some 16 and 17 year olds may not wish to enter the care system but prefer to access refuge accommodation. Victims aged 16 and over should be assessed using the CAADA/The National Police Chief’s Council DASH and, if assessed as high risk, referred to the MARAC;
  4. All professionals working with victims of forced marriage and honour based violence need to be aware of the 'one chance rule'. That is, they may only have one chance to speak to a potential victim and thus they may only have one chance to save a life. This means that all professionals working within statutory agencies need to be aware of their responsibilities and obligations when they come across forced marriage cases. If the victim is allowed to walk out of the door without support being offered, that one chance might be wasted;
  5. Children's Social Care has a duty to make enquiries into allegations of abuse or neglect against a child under Section 47 Children Act 1989. Forced marriage is child abuse and can put children and young people at risk of physical, emotional and sexual abuse;
  6. Mediation and involving the family can place a child or young person in danger and should not be undertaken as a response to forced marriage. This includes visiting the family to ask them whether they are intending to force their child to marry or writing a letter to the family requesting a meeting about their child's allegation that they are being forced to marry.


Motives Prompting Forced Marriage

  1. Parents who force their children to marry often justify their behaviour as protecting their children, building stronger families, and preserving cultural or religious traditions. They do not see anything wrong in their actions. Forced Marriage cannot be justified on religious grounds; every major faith condemns it and freely given consent is a prerequisite of Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh marriages. Whilst it is important to have an understanding of the motives that drive parents to force their children to marry, these motives should not be accepted as justification for denying the child the right to choose a marriage partner. Forced marriage should be recognised as a human rights abuse;
  2. Some key motives that have been identified are:
    • Controlling unwanted behaviour and sexuality (including perceived promiscuity, or being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender) - particularly the behaviour and sexuality of women;
    • Protecting 'family honour';
    • Responding to peer group or family pressure;
    • Attempting to strengthen family links;
    • Ensuring land, property and wealth remain within the family;
    • Protecting perceived cultural or religious ideals (which can often be misguided or out of date);
    • Preventing unsuitable relationships, e.g. outside the ethnic, cultural, religious or caste group;
    • Assisting claims for residence and citizenship;
    • Fulfilling long standing family commitments.


The Legal Position

  1. In 2004, the Government's definition of domestic violence was extended to include acts perpetrated by extended family members as well as intimate partners. Acts such as forced marriage and other so-called 'honour crimes' which can include abduction and homicide, can now come under the definition of domestic violence. Many of these acts are committed against children. Perpetrators can be prosecuted for offences including threatening behaviour, assault, kidnap, abduction, imprisonment and murder. Sexual intercourse without consent is rape;
  2. Sexual intercourse without consent is rape, regardless of whether this occurs within the confines of a marriage;
  3. In addition, the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007, which was implemented in November 2008, makes provision for protecting children, young people and adults from being forced into marriage without their full and free consent (through Forced Marriage Protection Orders);
  4. Anyone threatened with forced marriage or forced to marry against their will can apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order. Such an order can be granted to prevent a marriage occurring or, where a forced marriage has already taken place, to offer protective measures. Orders may contain prohibitions (e.g. to stop someone from being taken abroad), restrictions (e.g. to hand over all passports and birth certificates and not to apply for a new passport), requirements (e.g. to reveal the whereabouts of a person or to enable a person to return to the UK within a given timescale) or such other terms as the court thinks appropriate to stop or change the conduct of those who would force the victim into marriage. A power of arrest may be added where violence is threatened;
  5. Third parties such as relatives, friends, voluntary workers and police officers can apply for a protection order with the leave of the Court. Since 1 November 2009, local authorities can apply for a protection order for a vulnerable adult or child without the leave of the court;
  6. For further advice and information about how to make such an application, see the Guidance for Local Authorities on Applying for Forced Marriage Protection Orders, published by the Ministry of Justice in November 2009.

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 made it a criminal offence, with effect from 16 June 2014, to force someone to marry. This includes:

  • Taking someone overseas to force them to marry (whether or not the forced marriage takes place);
  • Marrying someone who lacks the mental Capacity to consent to the marriage (whether they’re pressured to or not).

Breaching a Forced Marriage Protection Order is also now a criminal offence. The civil remedy of obtaining a Forced Marriage Protection Order through the family courts, as set out above, continues to exist alongside the criminal offence, so victims can choose how they wish to be assisted.

Forcing someone to marry can result in a sentence of up to 7 years in prison.

Disobeying a Forced Marriage Protection Order can result in a sentence of up to 5 years in prison.


Symptoms of Risk Factors

  1. The factors below, collectively or individually may be an indication that a young person fears they may be forced to marry, or that a forced marriage has already taken place:
    • Education - truancy from lessons, low motivation in school, poor exam results, extended periods of 'authorised absence' for sickness or oversees family commitments, unofficial withdrawal from school, history of older siblings missing education and marrying early;
    • Health - self -harm, attempted suicide, eating disorders, depression, isolation;
    • Employment - poor performance, poor attendance, limited career choices, not allowed to work, unreasonable financial control e.g. confiscation of wages/income;
    • Family history - siblings forced to marry, family disputes, domestic violence and abuse, running away from home, unreasonable restrictions e.g. house arrest.


Dealing with Concerns and the "One Chance Rule"

  1. Forced marriage is abusive and when it concerns children and young people under the age of 18 years should be dealt with. Any agency becoming aware that a child is to be forced into marriage should make a referral to Children's Social Care, under the Referrals Procedure. A flowchart for the management of these cases can be found below;
  2. All professionals working with victims of forced marriage need to be aware of the 'one chance rule'. That is, they may only have one chance to speak to a potential victim and thus they may only have one chance to save a life. This means that all professionals working within statutory agencies need to be aware of their responsibilities and obligations when they come across forced marriage cases. If the victim is allowed to walk out of the door without support being offered, that one chance might be wasted;
  3. Young people, especially those aged 16 and 17, can present specific difficulties to agencies as there may be occasions where it is appropriate to use both child and adult protection frameworks. For example, some 16 and 17 year olds may not wish to enter the care system but prefer to access refuge accommodation. Victims aged 16 and over should be assessed using the CAADA Risk Identification Checklist & Quick Start Guidance for Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Honour-Based Violence (DASH) and, if assessed as high risk, referred to the MARAC.


Notes of Caution

  1. Mediation and involving the family can place a child or young person in danger and should not be undertaken as a response to forced marriage: this includes visiting the family to ask them whether they are intending to force their child to marry or writing a letter to the family requesting a meeting about their child's allegation that they are being forced to marry;
  2. Extreme caution must be exercised. Do not discuss concerns about forced marriage with the young person's family or friends, or share information outside child protection Information Sharing and Confidentiality Procedures without the express consent of the young person. Such action could place a child or young person at increased risk. If approached parents may deny that the young person is being forced to marry, move the young person, expedite any travel arrangements and bring forward the forced marriage;
  3. If there are concerns that a child (male or female) is in danger of a forced marriage, local agencies and professionals should contact the Forced Marriage Unit where experienced caseworkers will be able to offer support and guidance (020 7008 0230). The Police and Children's Social Care should also be contacted. All those involved will want to bear in mind that mediation as a response to forced marriage can be extremely dangerous. Refusal to go through with a forced marriage has, in the past, been linked to so-called 'honour crimes'.


Flowchart for Cases Where Forced Marriage is Suspected

Click here to view Flowchart.

End