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New forced marriage legislation comes into effect

Published: 16 June 2014

New laws criminalising forced marriage in England and Wales have come into effect today, carrying a maximum penalty of 7 years in prison. 

Sections from the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 have been inserted in to the Family Law Act 1996, officially criminalising forced marriage for the first time.

It is also a criminal offence to threaten or show signs of violence for the purpose of causing another person to enter into a forced marriage. There is now a maximum prison sentence of 7 years for anyone who commits a forced marriage offence and a maximum sentence of 5 years for anyone who breaches a forced marriage protection order.

The new legislation follows the results of a public consultation on forced marriage, published by the government in December 2011. The consultation canvassed opinion on how the new law should be structured and if it was in fact a criminal offence at all. 

The results found that the majority wanted new laws to be introduced to protect victims from forced marriage and the government agreed that it was necessary to introduce criminal punishment, which also fulfils the UK's international obligations under the Istanbul Convention, signed in 2012.

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