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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 December 2007, 11:57 GMT
New forced marriage power planned
Forced Marriage Unit poster
New publicity materials are aimed at raising awareness of the issue
Campaigners may be able to go to court to stop a forced marriage without the permission of a victim.

Ministers are considering letting third parties intervene in coercive relationships where victims are too scared to act.

The plans may include giving a role to teachers and legitimate boyfriends or girlfriends to go to court.

The government investigates 300 forced marriages a year, including about 70 overseas rescue operations.

Parliament passed the Forced Marriage Act earlier this year and the full powers will come into force until autumn 2008.

FORCED MARRIAGES

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Courts will be able to ban family members from coercing someone into a marriage. Anyone who breaks the order would face imprisonment.

But experts say many people faced with a forced marriage would be too scared to come forward themselves to seek an injunction.

In a consultation on the new powers, the government says "relevant third parties" could directly intervene, even if the victim has not given permission.

This could mean specialist domestic violence groups, or other experts, would be able to go to court if a victim is in hiding, or has already been spirited abroad.

While teachers, boyfriends or girlfriends may be among the first to learn of a planned marriage, the proposals suggest that they would not be able to directly seek injunctions themselves - but could apply to the courts for permission to intervene.

Intervention

Launching the consultation, justice minister Bridget Prentice said the government recognised that there needed to be a mechanism to allow others to intervene.

FORCED MARRIAGES UNIT
5,000 calls for advice
300 calls become cases
15% of cases men
30% children, youngest eight
65% Pakistani families
25% Bangladeshi
70 overseas rescue missions
Source: Foreign Office annual figures

"When you look at the situations some of the people affected by forced marriages will be in, it's clear that not all of them will be able to apply personally to the courts for protection.

"And some victims might not want to take court action against members of their own family. Where this happens we want to make sure that other people or organisations can step in on their behalf.

"It's important that the Act gives victims the power to get forced marriage protection orders from the courts in whatever circumstances they find themselves."

The government has already established a special Forced Marriages Unit which mounts clandestine rescue operations predominantly to help British women forced into relationships in Pakistan.

Foreign Office figures show that 65% of the cases they deal with involve Pakistani families.

Asian campaigners from a range of ethnic and religious backgrounds have lobbied for years for more help on forced marriages, with some accusing leading community figures of ignoring the problem. Recently, four of the UK's largest Muslim bodies agreed mosques should do more to root out forced marriages.

Forced marriages are different to Asian traditions of arranged marriages which are freely-agreed matches, facilitated by families.

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

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