The Ministry of Justice has introduced tougher penalties for those who break Forced Marriage Protection Orders (FMPO).
It is now a criminal offence to breach a FMPO punishable by up to five years in prison.
Forced marriage is a marriage in which one or both individuals do not (or cannot) consent to marriage, but are forced into it. Being forced can include: physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure.
Victims of forced marriage can be both women and men, and the marriages may take place in the UK or overseas.
Previously there was no specific offence of forcing someone to marry – however someone could be prosecuted for criminal offences involved in forcing someone to marry such as kidnap, false imprisonment, assault, child abduction, harassment, etc.
The FMPO use civil law to protect someone at risk of being forced into a marriage.
A FMPO puts in place restrictions for example: not to threaten or use force against the person concerned; to not take a person’s passport or other travel document; and not to arrange the engagement or marriage of the person protected by the FMPO.
A new offence of breaching a FMPO has been introduced with a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, a fine or both on indictment (serious crime) and six months imprisonment, a fine or both on summary (lower level).
A new offence of forced marriage has also been introduced with a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment, a fine or both on indictment (more serious) and six months imprisonment, a fine or both, on summary (lower level).
The new measures are being brought in by the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing (ASBCP) Bill, which was introduced on 9th May 2013 and includes measures to make both forced marriage and the breach of an FMPO a criminal offence.
Justice Minister Damian Green said: "Forced marriage is abhorrent and little more than slavery. To force anyone into marriage against their will is simply wrong and this continued practice in modern Britain is a stain on our social fabric. That is why we are legislating to make it illegal.
"To protect men and women from being forced in to marriage we are making it a criminal offence to breach a Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) punishable by up to five years in prison."
Jasvinder Sanghera CBE, Founder and Chief Executive of Karma Nirvana, said: "Forced marriages rob you of a childhood – our victims have the most horrific of crimes committed against them here in Britain. As cases increase so must awareness, legal remedies and a strong message to perpetrators.
"Strengthening Forced Marriage Protection Orders reinforces the serious approach we are taking to tackle these abuses. All these measures remind victims that forced marriages are a crime not part of culture, tradition and that they will be believed and supported if they report."