Change in law over forced marriages

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Lancashire’s Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner has stressed the county’s commitment to tackling forced marriage ahead to coincide with a change in law.

From this week (Monday June 16), both forced marriage – where one or both people do not agree to the marriage and force or pressure is used - and breaching a Forced Marriage Protection Order will become criminal offences.

APCC Saima Afzal MBE said while she did not see a need to criminalise forced marriage – and had concerns about the impact of this move - she welcomed the news those who breach Forced Marriage Protection Orders would face prosecution. And she said the Commissioner would continue with an ongoing commitment to help vulnerable people at the earliest possible opportunity and not rely solely on prosecutions.

Saima, who has prioritised tackling violence against women and girls on behalf of the Commissioner in her role as APCC, said: “I do not believe there is a need to criminalise forced marriages, as existing laws already offer protection. But I do welcome the move to make it a criminal offence to breach a Forced Marriage Protection order.

“Lancashire’s commitment is a pro-active one with an emphasis on early intervention – and it will stay that way. It’s too late for vulnerable people and victims if organisations become complacent and rely solely on prosecution as the key mechanism to tackle forced marriages.

Saima sits on the Lancashire Strategic Forced Marriage and Honour Based Violence group, and said there were concerns about the impact criminalising forced marriage could have on victims – and that it may potentially stop people coming forward. She urged anyone who falls victim – or believes someone may be in danger – to speak up.