Peer seeks law to stop a ‘social evil’

A bill seeking to prevent forced marriage is due to receive its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday (26 January).

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 Liberal Democrat 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, and are intended to be easier 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 the issue of forced marriage, but it has not done so as yet.

“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 launched a book by a campaigner against forced marriage this week.

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 today (Thursday), and emphasises the need for specialist provision for Asian women, including refuges.

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