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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 June 2006, 12:05 GMT 13:05 UK
Forced marriage law 'not needed'
Wedding ring
Forced marriages mostly affect South Asian communities
The Home Office has decided a specific law to ban forced marriages in the UK is not needed.

Ministers had asked groups and individuals if there should be a law criminalising the act of forcing someone into marriage.

Most thought the disadvantages of a new law would outweigh the advantages, and possibly drive the practice of forced marriages underground.

The Home Office will put forward three recommendations to stop the practice.

These included better training for those who work in this field and "engaging more with communities".

'No justification'

It also called for an increase in the work done with statutory agencies in sharing best practice and implementing guidelines.

The third recommendation was to ensure that existing legislation was fully implemented, including making better use of civil remedies and the family courts.

Home Office minister Baroness Scotland said: "Forced marriage is an abuse of human rights and a form of domestic violence which cannot be justified on religious or cultural grounds.

In the future, we will continue to provide information and assistance both to potential victims and to concerned professionals
Home Office minister Baroness Scotland

"This consultation has been very useful in stimulating debate and generating recommendations from those with expertise in the field.

"In the future, we will continue to provide information and assistance both to potential victims and to concerned professionals who are confronted by this abuse."

At present, anyone found guilty of forcing someone into marriage can be prosecuted for kidnap, false imprisonment or rape.

About 300 forced marriages are reported to the authorities every year - often involving people from Britain's South Asian community.

In most cases young women are pressured into marrying, but at least 15% involve coercion of men.

'Stereotyping'

The Southall Black Sisters, a group which campaigns against domestic violence, says it believes that young people will not report their parents for fear of criminalising them.

Pragna Patel, chair of the group, told Radio 4 that existing laws were sufficient.

"We don't see the need for criminalisation of forced marriage, which is yet another way of stereotyping and criminalising entire communities at a time when there is heightened racism in this country."

The government has made it clear that it is not attacking the idea of arranged marriages - a popular practice in South Asian communities - when both bride and groom give their consent.

Ministers have said that they recognise the problem is not exclusively South Asian.

Baroness Scotland said people with links to the Middle East, the Balkans and Africa were also affected.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See cases of children forced into arranged marriages



SEE ALSO:
Forced marriage ban lacks support
12 Mar 06 |  UK Politics


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