Refuge welcomes criminalisation of forced marriage

From today it is a criminal offence to force someone to get married.


Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, says:

“Forcing someone to marry is a serious crime.  Victims of this form of abuse are often threatened, intimidated, kidnapped, beaten, raped and even killed.  I am pleased that, from today, perpetrators of this horrific behaviour will face the full weight of the criminal law.

“At Refuge, we supported 85 women who were at specific risk of forced marriage in the past year.  Many of these women have lived in extreme isolation, cut off from friends and family, forbidden to work or even learn English. Those who break free may be tracked down by their family or members of the wider community. Refuge’s workers are specially trained to deal with these risks: we support women to escape their abusers, regain control of their lives and move on, free from fear.

“Criminalising forced marriage sends a strong message to society. However, legislation alone will not end this form of abuse. Our law enforcement agencies must ensure that perpetrators are apprehended and prosecutions are rigorously pursued. Forced marriage must also be prevented: this will require effective deterrent measures, expert training for professionals and far-reaching awareness-raising campaigns. And support for victims is also essential. Refuge runs a network of specialist services across the country, but funding for these vital lifelines is disappearing fast as a result of ongoing austerity measures.  Culturally specific services for women from minority ethnic communities have been particularly hard hit.  It is essential that these services are protected, so that victims of forced marriage can come forward, knowing that they will be believed, supported and safe.”