8,000 people at risk of forced marriage annual in Britain

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Asian Image special feature

IT is estimated that every year between 5,000 and 8,000 people in the UK are at risk of being forced into a marriage they don’t want. Solicitor Razia Jogi, who works in the Bradford office of Switalskis Solicitors, co-wrote a definitive legal textbook, Forced Marriages, and has significant expertise in protecting people from a forced marriage, the Asian Image has reported.

Here Razia Jogi tells how the law on forced marriage differs to arranged marriage, and gives advice on what people should do to escape it, or what to do if you suspect someone has been taken from the UK against their will for a forced marriage.

“Despite the fact that in 2014 it became a criminal offence to use physical, emotional or psychological abuse to force someone to marry against their will, there continues to be hundreds of cases reported each year.

Since 2012, the UK’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) has provided support to between 1,200 and 1,400 cases each year. Of the 65 countries involved, Pakistan tops the list at 36.7per cent of cases; 30per cent of the victims are under 18; and 15per cent are aged 15 or younger. However, the victims are not just women. A significant 22per cent are men.

It is clearly still a huge problem affecting both men and women, many of whom will face physical pressure to marry, such as threats, physical or sexual violence, or emotional and psychological pressure, including being made to feel they are bringing shame on their families.

Often there is confusion between ‘arranged’ and ‘forced’ marriages. The two are very different. An arranged marriage is one where family are involved in the choosing of a marriage partner, however the ultimate decision to enter into marriage remains with the person/s entering into the marriage contract.

Bradford solicitor Razia Jogi tells how

to escape and report forced marriage

A forced marriage comes about when a person is made to marry against their will.

Forced marriage is illegal in the UK and can result in a prison sentence of up to seven years. It includes:

* Taking someone overseas to force them to marry – whether or not the forced marriage takes place

* Marrying someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage, whether they’re pressured to or not, including children under 16.

Where a person is being forced into a marriage, they are often terrified, both of the impending marriage and losing the support of their family, or worse, if they object.

Indeed, there have been a number of high-profile cases where young people have been held against their will, and even killed, for refusing to enter into a forced marriage.

Therefore, the new, robust legislation introduced in 2014, making forced marriage illegal, was very welcome.

The courts recognise that in forced marriage, their procedures need to be swift and smooth when someone needs to obtain legal protection, and they appreciate that many victims will be unable to return home after they have sought help.

Emergency orders, therefore, can be made quickly, and the courts and solicitors work with agencies to ensure victims are provided with somewhere safe to stay once legal proceedings begin.

Victims themselves, or someone who is concerned about them, including friends, relatives and local authorities, can ask the court for a Forced Marriage Protection Order.

Each order is unique, and is designed to protect the victim, according to their individual circumstances.

Orders start with prohibiting the family from going through with the forced marriage. The court can then go on to make other orders dealing with practical aspects, such as prohibiting the victim from being taken out of the country, handing over of the passport together with other terms that are appropriate.

The court will inevitably make orders forbidding people named in an application from using or threatening violence against the alleged victim.

However, the legislation also allows for orders to be directed at people who are not named, therefore anyone who aids, abets or encourages a forced marriage would also be in breach of an order and could be jailed for up to five years.

Where people suspect someone has been taken from the UK against their will for a forced marriage, they should contact the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) or a solicitor, giving the following information:

* Where have they been taken?

* When did you last see them?

* When did they leave?

* When are they due back?

If the victim is overseas, the FMU will contact the relevant British Embassy, which will help the victim to come back to the UK, if that is what they want.

A forced marriage situation is hard to deal with, where emotions and family relationships are in turmoil. Advice and assistance from a specialist solicitor will help the victim to obtain the best outcome.”

* For more information, contact Razia Jogi on (01274) 720314 or at Razia.Jogi@Switalskis.com

* Alternatively, call the Forced Marriage Unit on 020 7008 0151, or email fmu@fco.gov.uk

* The Asian Image has reportedly released this legal expert column in conjunction with the Law Society.