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Forced Marriages

Volume 685: debated on Monday 9 October 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answers by the Lord Triesman on 20 June (WA 73) and 28 June (WA 160) and in view of statements reported in the Times of 24 July, whether they will reconsider their decision not to create a criminal offence of forcing someone into wedlock without consent. [HL7168]

We have made clear, as the Times article cited by the noble Lord acknowledges, that forced marriage is an unacceptable abuse of fundamental rights and a form of domestic violence.

While we have decided, at this point, not to create a specific criminal offence of forcing someone into marriage, we have not ruled out the possibility of developing new legislation to tackle the issue in the future. We believe, however, that this should only be done if gaps are identified where existing legislation is not sufficient to deal with specific aspects of forced marriage. We shall look carefully at this issue.

We remain fully committed to making clear that forced marriage is unacceptable and to ensuring that everyone has the right to enter into marriage freely and with their full consent. We believe that, in order to tackle forced marriage more effectively, we need to take forward the recommendations for non-legislative action made by respondents to the recent public consultation. We agree that training of professionals alone will not suffice, and will be following up the recommendations, favoured by the majority of respondents, for further awareness-raising campaigns and education as key tools in maximising the effect of existing laws.

I refer the noble Lord to the document Forced Marriage: A Wrong Not A Right, which contains a synthesis of the responses by stakeholders to the public consultation, a copy of which rests in the Library of the House. The document’s findings reflect the views of respondents, many of whom are intimately involved in dealing with forced marriage, on the issues raised in the Times article.