Forced marriage bill due for second reading

A bill seeking to prevent forced marriage is due to receive its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday.

It will allow victims to take out an injunction to stop a marriage, or claim compensation if forced into one. The private member’s bill was introduced by Lib Dem peer Lord Lester, who describes forced marriage as a “serious social evil.”

Injunctions and compensation are civil remedies that can proceed without involving the police. They are intended to be easier, quicker and cheaper than using criminal law.

The government decided against making forced marriage a crime following a consultation launched in 2005. At the Labour party conference last year home secretary John Reid said the government intended to return to forced marriage, but it has not done so far.

“That is why I decided to introduce this bill, using civil rather than criminal law, in the hope that, with the support of British Asians and the wider public, it will have government support and become law,” said Lord Lester.

The peer also launches a book by a campaigner against forced marriage today.

Jasvinder Sanghera, director of Karma Nirvana, a project for Asian children and women, ran away from a forced marriage as a teenager.

Her memoir Shame is published on Thursday.

A “fog of ignorance and misplaced cultural and religious sensitivity” has previously surrounded forced marriage, says Sanghera in her book.

However she believes the British authorities “have started to acknowledge the problems that Asian women face.”

Shame emphasises the need for specialist provision for Asian women including refuges.

“If they are to survive an anonymous hostel won’t do; they need something familiar, something as close as possible to what they’ve known and lost,” says Sanghera.

“Running away mustn’t mean you have to shrug off your whole identity,” she urges.

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