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Forced Marriage

Volume 547: debated on Thursday 28 June 2012

6. What steps she has taken to ensure that the criminalisation of forced marriage does not discourage victims from bringing complaints forward. (114073)

Forced marriage is a hidden problem, and criminalising this abhorrent act will give victims the option of seeking the toughest form of justice. To ensure that victims and others are not discouraged from coming forward, civil remedies will remain available to them. We are also providing a package of support to ensure that victims know what help is available, and we are better equipping practitioners to deal with cases of forced marriage more effectively.

I thank my right hon. Friend for her answer. However, victims will clearly be intimidated in reporting family members who are committing these crimes. What more can be done to encourage other family members and potential witnesses to report the crimes, and what more can she do to raise awareness that this practice will not be tolerated?

My hon. Friend raises an extremely important point. We have retained the twin-track approach of the criminalised route or the civil remedy route precisely because of a concern about those who may not want to report people because of the criminalisation aspect. Raising awareness is incredibly important. That is why we are putting in place a support package, working with practitioners to help them to identify the signs that somebody might be about to be taken away for a forced marriage. We are also going to run a summer awareness campaign aimed at young people so that they understand the signs as regards not only something that might happen to themselves but what is happening to their friends, and are more willing to come forward.