In August 2016 I wrote about forced marriage to clarify the distinction between a forced and an arranged marriage, as often the two can be confused.

I explained that the key difference was that of consent, both parties entering freely in to the marriage without threats, violence or coercion.

I described how victims to a forced marriage are often duped into leaving the UK, under the pretence of visiting a sick relative or going on holiday, only to find they are trapped, their passport confiscated and held against their will. To make matters worse, the people responsible for this are those who are supposed to love and protect them, their own parents/families!

Last month at the Birmingham Crown Court a woman was found guilty of taking her 17 year old daughter to Pakistan for a forced marriage. The circumstances echoed those I described in my August 2016 blog; the child was deceived by her mother, believing she was going on holiday. Upon arrival in Pakistan, her passport was taken from her with threats to destroy it if she did not go ahead with the marriage. The victim was returned to the United Kingdom with the assistance of the Home Office. Sadly for this girl, her ordeal started when she was just 13 years old, when her mother entered her in to a ‘marriage contract’ with a relative who was almost twice her age. She became pregnant by him when she was 13 resulting in an abortion.

The victim’s mother was found guilty of deceiving her daughter into travelling to Pakistan, forced marriage and perjury. This is only the second conviction since legislation against forced marriage was introduced in 2014, and the first time as a direct result of the victim’s bravery in testifying against her own family.

The Forced Marriage Unit was set up in 2005, since it was introduced more than 1500 forced-marriage protection orders have been issued. A report published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 16th March 2018 provides the statistics of the number of cases the unit has dealt with in the last 12 months. The report confirms that in 2017 1,196 cases were handled by the unit, from those cases a quarter of them involved children. The majority (78%) were female. The report describes forced marriage as a “hidden crime”, meaning that these figures are representative only of those cases which have been reported in 2017. It is feared there are many more living in a forced marriage, or facing the threat of one too scared to come forward.

Securing a criminal conviction is notoriously difficult as it requires the victim to give evidence against their own family. Giving evidence against their family is not required in order to obtain a Forced Marriage Protection Order through the family court. An application for an order can be made by any individual or authority who is concerned for a persons’ welfare, believing they may be forced in to marriage. The informant does not need evidence that the marriage is to take place only a belief.

Farleys can assist if you feel pressured in to marriage or you are worried about a child or indeed an adult. Our specialist team understand the unique, particularly sensitive and difficult circumstances, and we can help.

If you are concerned do not delay in seeking advice. Please contact a member of our dedicated family law team on 0845 287 0939. Alternately, you can complete an enquiry form and a member of our team will get back to you.