Wednesday, 14 March 2007

The Forced Marriage Bill- A response

Posted by Aisha Gill, Chair of Newham Asian Women's Project

In 2005, the Joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office Forced Marriage Unit (JFCO/HO/FMU), consulted on a proposal to create a specific criminal offence related to forced marriage. Newham Asian Women’s Project welcomed and supported the need to create early intervention and preventative mechanisms to combat such marriages. At the time we argued that, on balance, we did not believe that creating a specific offence would be the most effective way to deter this harmful practice and provide adequate protection for victims. In agreement with many other key organisations working in this area, we stated that such legislation would be problematic.

We welcome the efforts of Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC in recognising that the issue of forced marriages needs more committed attention than it has received, and thus we support proposals to amend the Bill.

However, we would like to raise some issues in regards to tightening the content to avoid “implementation problems”. The procedure for obtaining injunctive relief appears to be similar to that for obtaining injunctive relief in other domestic violence situations under the Family Law Act, and for this reason, it would be a natural extension to incorporate the provisions into the Family Law Act. The courts, the police and family lawyers are already familiar with the workings of the Family Law Act and such incorporation would involve minimal “disruption” and costs – and most importantly, swifter adoption by those seeking this redressal. It would be a fairly simple exercise to amend the current documentation and procedures that already exist on an application under the Family Law Act to include forced marriage.

In our view, a free-standing law on forced marriages will not achieve any greater purpose than an amendment in the FLA. By creating a specific legislation on forced marriages, a distinctive law on the issue will be created instead of recognising forced marriages as a form of domestic violence. For better response to survivors of forced marriages, there is a growing need to integrate the responses, services and remedies available to all forms of domestic violence.

It is not clear why a free-standing act should be any easier for victims to use and understand. The actual wording of the Act will remain essentially the same. Surely, if there is to be any simplification, it should be in the language of the Act. Furthermore, an assumption is being also made that victims will be “going it alone” when in fact the vast majority will rely upon family lawyers to make the applications for them. In addition, there have been various ‘DIY Injunction kits’ available for survivors of domestic violence to apply for injunctions under the FLA and similar kits can be made available for the proposed Part 4A of the Act.

Aisha Gill
Chair of NAWP
To read the full response from NAWP click here


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home