While I welcome the news that forced marriages will at long last be considered a criminal offence, I fear new sentences for parents who force their children into marriage are far too lenient.
A maximum sentence of only seven years is not a strong enough deterrent, especially when young girls are forced into silence, for example with the threat of further abuse if they go to the police. Sadly, many cases of forced marriage take place abroad where cultural norms and financial pressures allow families to abuse their position of trust and responsibility towards their children.
One of the problems with forced marriages is the culture of silence surrounding it. Many people in affected communities are too afraid to speak out about forced marriages for fear of shaming their family while others merely dismiss it as a cultural practice. This has to change.
Many young girls in these communities are forced into a type of modern day slavery and some are even being killed by their often much older husbands. For this reason, I would like to see the Forced Marriages Unit be given greater powers of prosecution and the perpetrators of forced marriage receive extremely long sentences.
UKIP North-West MEP Paul Nuttall