The Practicalities of Forced Marriage
Forced marriage is a blight on all communities, and leaves its victims lost and scared, but more is being done to help.
This is a cultural practice which should not
be tolerated. The practicalities of forced marriage are not often discussed, but part of that journey includes eventually getting a divorce or an annulment. Forced marriage is a crime, but the law doesn't just stop there when protecting the innocent. Since the 16th of June 2014, forced marriage has been a criminal offence
. By forcing someone to marry, you can be imprisoned for up to 7 years
. Going against a forced marriage protection order (FMPO)
can result in up to 5 years
in prison. These are obviously very serious sentences and should not be taken lightly. The government has also gone one-step further to show their support. On the International Day of the Girl they announced a £330,000 boost to tackle female genital mutilation (FGM), and forced marriage
. A further £100,000 is to go to the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU)
to be spent on working in the community to spread awareness of the issue.
It's often asked, "Why don't they just say no and stick to it?" or "Why don't they just leave their marriage?"
There are many reasons why men and women feel they cannot walk away from their forced marriage.
Reasons Why People Stay
Some of the reasons people stay in their forced marriage include:
- Dishonouring the family name
- Cultural and familial pressures not being understood by the people providing the help
- Repercussions if they're caught e.g. homelessness, disownment, the thought of sending family members to prison, physical or threats of violence
- The stigma of divorce
- Financial implications
These are all considerations that need to be taken into account, and properly understood by those who become involved in the situation following the forced marriage. With the right legal representation, help can be provided for these concerns and any others that may affect you at the time
. Family law solicitors not only help in the legal sense but often they work with charities and refer victims to their services.
Should a victim meet the criteria, they can receive help with Legal Aid
applications as the reality of funding legal action can become a heavy burden.
Freeing Yourself Legally
When the victim escapes, there are a number of practical implications that follow. Getting a divorce or an annulment is ultimately the last piece in the puzzle of ending a forced marriage. Freeing yourself legally, as well as physically can be a great liberation.
A specialist solicitor will look carefully at your case to determine what the best conclusion will be for you. An annulment is a way of ending a marriage if you can prove that the marriage was not valid in the first place or that it is defective. If this is the best option for you, then your solicitor will be able to explain this in more detail.
If your solicitor feels there is not enough evidence for an annulment, or your marriage happened more than 3 years ago
, then the best option for you will be a divorce. Knowing what's best for you legally is the job of your solicitor, and you'll be safe in their hands if you give them all the facts. Your honour should not be your families dishonour. Shining a light on your situation could not only help you, but others in your situation.