From Times of India.
In UK, forced marriage is a criminal offence now
LONDON: Britain's monarch Queen Elizabeth has got the UK government to introduce a new legislation that will make forced marriages punishable by law.
Parents found coaxing their children into wedlock may be sent prison.
Britain's home secretary Theresa May said the government has now strengthened the protection for victims of forced marriage by making it a criminal offence.
May said, "Forced marriage is little more than slavery. It is an appalling form of abuse and by criminalizing it we are sending out a clear message that this practice is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the UK."
Forced marriages are rampant among UK's South East Asian community - Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. In 2008, over 1,600 incidents of suspected forced marriages were reported to the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) -- a joint foreign, commonwealth and the home office unit set up in collaboration with the Association of Chief Police Officers, crown prosecution service and the ministry of justice.
"The majority of cases of forced marriage reported to date in the UK involve South Asian families. Some forced marriages take place in the UK with no overseas element while others involve a partner coming from overseas or a British national being sent abroad," it said.
The country has launched a massive campaign to prevent and protect both men and women against forced marriages in Indian languages like Bengali, Punjabi and Gujarati. The FMU said it will aid people being taken out of the UK and then being forced to marry.
It said around 85% of cases of forced marriage involves women who have been forced into marriage and some 15% of cases involve men.
"An arranged marriage is not the same as a forced marriage. In an arranged or assisted marriage, the families take a role in choosing and introducing the marriage partners. The marriage is entered into freely by both people," it clarified.
A Home Office impact assessment published earlier this year said that a new offence could mean about 20 extra prosecutions a year and eight additional prisons may be needed.
The move also includes a £500,00 fund to help schools and other agencies to spot early signs of a forced marriage.
"Forced marriage is abhorrent and little more than slavery. To force anyone into marriage against their will is simply wrong and that is why we have taken decisive action to make it illegal," said British PM David Cameron.
The home office said the FMU had provided advice or support in nearly 600 cases this year, including 14% involving children below the age of 15. Nearly half the cases involved families living in Britain from Pakistan; others involved families from Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan and Turkey.