The answer is simple, full and free consent.
A forced marriage should not be confused with an arranged marriage. Arranged marriages are accepted in many communities. Although the parties to the marriage may not have chosen their future partner, they enter the marriage willingly and freely, both parties involved have the final say and can decline at any point; this is not the case with a forced marriage.
Victims of a forced marriage are often subjected to threats, violence, physical and emotional abuse, abducted and segregated. Some victims are tricked in to traveling abroad, often believing they are going on holiday or visiting a sick relative, only to find themselves betrothed and refused travel back home until the marriage has taken place. Both males and females can be the victims of a force marriage, as can those who lack capacity and understanding to give consent to marriage.
The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 together with Part IVA of the Family Law Act 1996 authorises the civil court to make an Order to protect a person from being forced in to marriage, and affords a way out for those who have been forced.
In addition to this from 16th June 2014 the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 made compelling a person into marriage against their will either through coercion, psychological, emotional, financial, or sexual abuse, violence or threats a criminal offence. This extends also to those who use deception causing a person to leave the UK for the purpose of forcing the victim in to marriage. A person found guilty can receive a sentence of up to 7 years imprisonment. This Act extends to the prosecution of those individuals living overseas who have been instrumental in the forced marriage, and gives the police jurisdiction to return a victim who is a British National back to the UK.
Applying for a Force Marriage Protection Order is not limited to the victim, a concerned third party, such as a friend or relative or a police officer can apply on behalf of the individual. It is not necessary for an informant to have evidence that the marriage has or is to take place; the court can act on hearsay evidence to protect the victim. The assistance and protection is there, victims now need the confidence to report these crimes.
Our experienced family law solicitors understand the unique difficulties faced by a victim of forced marriage when seeking help. If you are worried you may be forced to marry or you have been forced in to marriage, or you are concerned for family member or friend that they may be forced to marry then we can help. In protecting yourself or a victim, time is of the essence therefore you must seek assistance without delay. We have offices in Blackburn, Accrington, Burnley, Preston and Manchester, contact us for an appointment or call 0845 287 0939.