Greater protection against forced marriages
The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 came into force on the 25th November 2008.
The Act enables a party to apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order (an FMPO). The principal aim of the Act is to prevent forced marriages from taking place and stop attempts to force a party into marriage. If the marriage has already taken place there are additional powers to protect the victim and enable the party to move away from the relationship.
A forced marriage is not the same as an arranged marriage. In a forced marriage, one of both parties do not consent. With many cases going unreported it is believed there are many more cases than the 400 dealt with last year by the forced marriages unit at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The opportunity to apply for such an order is also not limited to the “wronged party” alone but will also be open to organisations such as the NSPCC, police and local authorities to name but a few. There are also opportunities for extended family members to apply, subject to being granted permission by the court.
Not only can the order be made against the principal perpetrator but also against third parties involved who may attempt to coerce, threaten or force the victim or encourage another person to do so.
The orders made by the court can even apply to parties not even named as respondents, if it can be shown that they were aware of the circumstances and the pressure being applied.
Applications can be made without notice being given to the respondents and can also incorporate a power of arrest meaning that anyone breaching the order can be arrested and charged.
Examples of orders that can be made include the following:
1. To seize or suspend a party’s passport.
2. To reveal the whereabouts of a person
3. To prevent contact
4. To change a name
5. To prevent a forced marriage from occurring
6. To stop someone from being taken abroad
7. To stop intimidation and violence
The orders made will relate to conduct not just in the UK but also overseas.
A Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) may be made for a specified period or until varied or discharged. A power of arrest can be attached if the respondent has used or threatened violence, which would allow arrest without a warrant if the order is breached.