New laws aimed at strengthening protection for victims of forced marriage by making it a criminal offence have been welcomed by Derbyshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Hardyal Dhindsa.
“This is a hugely significant stride forward which will give people the confidence to report this unfathomable and completely unacceptable practice,” he said.
“By making forced marriage a crime, the new legislation also makes it absolutely clear that it can neither be condoned nor tolerated in any of our communities.”
He hopes that the new legislation – announced in the Queen’s Speech last week as part of the new Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill – will lead to greater awareness of the far-reaching effects of forced marriage that thousands of victims have faced in the UK. “Thankfully, we will at last have laws designed to protect people and keep them safe from being forced to marry against their will,” he said.
“We will watch the Bill’s passage through Parliament with interest;” he added, “But this is a very positive step.”
Mr Dhindsa spoke of the importance of victims and third parties now reporting forced marriage, and the vital part that friends, teachers and professionals could play in recognising warning signs indicating potential victims. “There are statutory and voluntary organisations that can help and provide the sensitive support that is needed,” he pointed out. “No-one need feel they are alone in putting a stop to this.”
Assuring those in need of support, he said: “We have police and partner agencies who are specially trained in helping those who report this crime, so if you suspect that someone you know is at risk please contact the professionals and help make forced marriage a thing of the past.”
Home Secretary Theresa May has described the crime as “little more than slavery. It is an appalling form of abuse and by criminalising it we are sending out a clear message that this brutal practice is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the UK,” she said.
Mr Dhindsa highlighted that people should be aware of the difference between arranged marriages – involving mutual consent – and forced marriages.
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Posted on Wednesday 15th May 2013