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First person jailed for breaking forced marriage laws

15 February 2011

A Nigerian woman has become the first person to be jailed for breaking a forced marriage order.

Lydia Erhire refused to sign documents allowing for the repatriation of her son after he was allegedly taken from the UK to Nigeria against his will. She was jailed for eight months by the High Court yesterday.

Under the Forced Marriages Act, which was implemented in December 2008, courts can confiscate passports, require details of missing people to be handed over or make other orders.

Anne-Marie Hutchinson, partner at Dawson Cornwell, acts for Lydia Erhire’s son, Edirin Onojeta-Idogun. A statement from the firm said Edirin, now aged 17, obtained a forced marriage protection order from the High Court in July last year because he feared he would be taken to Nigeria and forced to marry against his will.

The statement said: “Edirin last attended school on 12 July 2010. He was removed by his mother and taken to Nigeria against his will on or about 16 July 2010.

“His mother subsequently returned to the United Kingdom on 16 October 2010 leaving Edirin in Nigeria.”

Meanwhile, the statement said Edirin was placed in a ‘safe house’ in Nigeria where he complained of being subjected to “quasi-religious ceremonies or exorcisms to purge him of his resistance to getting married”.

Edirin was also reported to have said he did not want to get married, he wanted to return ‘home’ to the UK and he had been beaten by various members of his family.

The High Court in London said that Edirin’s removal was in breach of his forced marriage protection order and directed his parents to return him to England immediately.

His mother was directed to sign documents to assist in his repatriation. She refused to do so and was sentenced to eight months in prison by the High Court yesterday.

Hutchinson told Solicitors Journal that the issue with enforcement under the Forced Marriages Act was often that the victim did not want their relatives to be jailed.

However, in this case, she said things were different. “Even if Edirin did say he did not want it, what he said would not be accepted at face value unless he was here in person.”

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Discrimination Marriage & Civil partnership Children Expert witness