Major campaign launched about forced marriages

A major new campaign has launched in West Yorkshire to raise awareness of forced marriage.

Police and partner agencies have come together to highlight the fact that it will officially become a crime as of June 2014.

Under the new legislation, those found guilty of ‘Forced Marriage’ can face up to seven years imprisonment.

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West Yorkshire Police’s Assistant Chief Constable John Robins said: “Forced marriage is a crime where one or both spouses do not, or cannot, consent to the marriage and duress is involved. This can include physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure.

“But let me make it really clear that this is not the same as an ‘arranged marriage’ which is a totally legal practice and involves the consent of both spouses.

‘Forced Marriage’ is not specifically attached to a particular belief, culture or is it condoned through religion. The majority of reports received by West Yorkshire Police relate to women or girls aged between 13 and 30. However, victims are not exclusively female, both men and women, young and old can be victims of forced marriage.

“Someone forced to marry may find it very difficult to take action to prevent it happening or initiate action to end a forced marriage. They may be subjected to sexual and ongoing domestic abuse, and in some cases, suffer violence and abuse from extended family members. These victims can end up feeling trapped in a relationship through violence and abuse.

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“We will be taking a ‘victim led approach’ in delivering the new Forced Marriage legislation. This will respect the views of victims, provide the necessary support, confidentiality and protection from harm.

“Our campaign aims to raise awareness of the issues surrounding forced marriage, including the indicators of this crime and the potential consequences for perpetrators. It is also designed to prevent forced marriage in the first place, empowering victims and prompting enforcement activity.

“We have launched a dedicated page on our website which provides information and advice around the latest legislation. Within this page, there are details of how to report this crime on-line.

“Anyone can report an offence or suspected offence in confidence and anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or direct to the police on the non-emergency number 101. Of course, if there is an offence taking place, someone is in danger or there is an emergency people should call 999.”