Family lawyer supports calls for a ban on forced marriages


Despite claims that the government's forced marriage unit has already helped hundreds of victims greater protection is needed to protect victims and clamp down on those who encourage its practice.

Calls from the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee to criminalise forced marriages have been met with widespread support and according to Emma Pearmaine who is head of Simpson Millar’s Family Law team instances of forced marriage should be taken extremely seriously.

"No one should ever have to enter into a marriage against their will but figures suggest that thousands of people are forced to do so each year. We are already helping a number of people who have unwillingly tied the knot overseas in an arranged marriage and I suspect many more simply suffer in silence."

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In cases of domestic violence women are often pressurised into signing a request which allows their spouse indefinite leave to remain in the UK. "We are often having to battle with immigration to take the side of the individual who has been subject to abuse," said Emma.

Forced marriage protection orders have gone some way in protecting victims with 300 issued over the past 3 years. But only one person has ever been sentenced to prison for breaching such an order and MPs have criticised its effectiveness and a lack of follow-up.

"Women, and in particular ethnic minorities, are under pressure from their families to keep quiet and simply put up with a very difficult situation. When these women do come forward they need help, support and protection by the law. As it stands there is certainly room for improvement."

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