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Forced Marriages Act is "working well"

1 December 2009

The Forced Marriages Act, implemented a year ago, is working well and has resulted in a higher than expected number of court orders being made, solicitors have said.

Under forced marriage orders, courts can confiscate passports or require details of missing people to be handed over.

Anne-Marie Hutchinson, partner at Dawson Cornwell, said the Act was working well and resulting in more inquiries from victims and potential victims.

“It’s probably because people are aware that the Act is out there,” she said. “It’s not because there are more cases.

“Word is getting out to potential victims and to the courts. Judges are more aware of the issues.”

Hutchinson said she had helped secure up to 30 of the 86 forced marriage orders which have so far been made.

She said that other kinds of order may also have been made in the past year, for example in care proceedings where victims were under 16.

“The Act does not preclude other reliefs where they are more appropriate,” she said.

Aina Khan, head of the family department at Woodroffes in London, said the number of orders made under the Act was “much better than expected”.

“It takes enormous courage to come forward,” Khan said. “Only the very bravest do it. They are pioneers leading the way.”

However, she said that Asian and Muslim communities had accepted the Act.

“It has had much more of a welcome that you would expect. A few people resent any interference but they are not the majority.”

Khan said the arrival of the Act made life easier for those in the community who were already arguing that forced marriages were illegal in Islamic law.

She predicted the number of orders might grow this year to around 100 before stabilising.

“The success of this Act will be in there not being many orders,” she said. “Real success would be to prevent forced marriages because the ethos has changed in families, rather than forcing them to comply with the law.”

Justice minister Bridget Prentice said that the MoJ anticipated only around 50 orders being made in the first year of the Forced Marriage Act.

“There is no doubt in my mind that we have provided a remedy in response to a genuine need,” she said.

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