News In Focus
Approval for aims of Forced Marriage Bill
Another Scottish Government measure has received committee approval in a stage 1 report, with the publication of the Equal Opportunities Committee's report on the Forced Marriage (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Bill.
The measure is designed to protect people being forced into marrying without their consent, through forced marriage protection orders. Anyone found breaching an order could face up to two years in prison.
Scotland is the only part of the UK to propose making it a criminal offence to breach such an order. However the report states that the bill “strikes the right balance between identifying and helping victims of forced marriage and overcoming the concerns about criminalising family members”.
The committee concludes that although the number of forced marriages in Scotland is believed to be relatively low, the impact on victims is so high that improved measures are needed to protect them.
The report also highlighted the need to ensure there was a clear distinction between forced and arranged marriages – forced marriages being carried out in the absence of valid consent by one or both parties which can involve physical or psychological duress, whereas an arranged marriage is entered into freely by both parties., although their families may take a role in the choice of partner.
Convener Margaret Mitchell MSP said: “By making it a criminal offence to breach a forced marriage order, the bill will strengthen the ability of law enforcers to protect victims and hopefully act as a deterrent to potential perpetrators.
“To date civil remedies have not proved sufficient to successfully rid Scotland of this abhorrent activity.
“Quite simply, having heard harrowing evidence on the damage forced marriage does to the victims, the committee supports the view expressed by many witnesses that although numbers may be low in Scotland the detrimental impact is extremely high and cannot be tolerated.
“With this in mind the more victim-centred approach which the legislation adopts alongside campaigns to raise awareness of this totally unacceptable practise is the sensible way forward.”
Click here to view the report.