Pendle’s MP Andrew Stephenson has welcomed the law making forced marriage a criminal offence which came into effect this week and said it was time to “draw a line in the sand”.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, who had described forced marriage in 2011 as “little more than slavery” and “completely wrong”, announced in 2012 that the government intended to make forcing someone to marry a criminal offence in England and Wales.
Following an extensive consultation, proposals were included in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act, which became law in March and the new offences have now come into force.
The new law distinguishes between arranged marriages and forced marriages where there is no consent. The Home Office says a forced marriage “is one in which one or both spouses do not consent to the marriage but are coerced into it” by means including “physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure”.
Mr Stephenson, who has raised this issue on a number of occasions in the House of Commons, said: “I had been calling for this for some time, so I welcome the change in the law.
“Forced marriage is completely wrong and while the new law will not in itself eradicate this problem, it will draw a clear line in the sand and send out a powerful message.
“We must protect vulnerable women, and in some cases men, who are forced to marry against their will and I believe this change in the law is long overdue.”