• Reading Level 5
Geography | Citizenship | RE | PSHE | Relationships and health

Forced marriage to be criminalised in England

Force someone to marry against their will and you could go to jail. This new law has been hailed as a great human rights victory by some, but will it work in practice for those at risk? When Sameem Ali was taken out of school aged 12 and told by her mother she was going on holiday, she was excited at the prospect of 'beaches and happy times.' But instead, she was flown to Pakistan and forced to marry a man twice her age whom she had never met before. After suffering rape and abuse, she returned to the UK aged 14, vulnerable, lonely - and pregnant. Sameem's terrible ordeal is what is known as a forced marriage - where either one or both spouses do not consentAgreement with full knowledge. to the marriage but are coerced into it by physical, psychological, financial, sexual or emotional pressure. It is different from an arranged marriage, where both parties consent to a union. But a new law passed yesterday means that forcing someone into marriage in England and Wales is now a crime, and will carry a maximum seven-year jail sentence under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. The law will also criminalise the forcing of a British national into marriage outside the UK. Forced marriage robs a person of the freedom to choose their life partner, and can result in domestic violence, domestic slavery and rape. Resisting a marriage can have even darker consequences. The change in the law follows public outrage over the treatment of a 17-year-old woman, Shafilea Ahmed, who was murdered by her parents in 2003 after refusing to marry against her will. Many cases of forced marriage go unreported, making it difficult to obtain accurate figures for the scale of the problem in the UK. Last year the government's Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 1,302 cases, but some campaigners estimate that the problem could affect as many as 3,000-4,000 people each year. And it may be getting worse. Earlier this week, the NSPCCThe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children is a charity campaigning and working in child protection in the United Kingdom. reported that children as young as 12 are calling ChildLine about the issue, and the volume of calls has nearly trebled in the last three years. But could this change in the law be a step in the right direction? I don’t Not everyone is convinced that the new law will work. Sameem Ali, now a Labour councillor, believes it will deter victims from coming forward because they will be reluctant to see their family members jailed. Others say the law will be impossible to implement because parents can simply take their children to other countries and leave them there. The abuse will simply be pushed underground. But others argue that the law is an important step in tackling this barbaric practice. Campaigners say the legislation will send out a powerful message that forced marriage is not just a civil misdemeanor, but a grave criminal offence. Clearer definitions and penalties will also make it easier for the authorities to help those at risk. KeywordsConsent - Agreement with full knowledge.

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