Chapter 2: Background
8. In August 1999, the UK Government's Home Office Minister for Community Relations, Mike O'Brien MP established a Forced Marriage Working Group to undertake an investigation into the scale and extent of forced marriage across the UK. The Working Group's findings were published in " A Choice by Right" in 2000. The Working Group concluded, amongst other things, that there were eight guiding principles that should be adopted by all agencies dealing with forced marriage.
9. These were:
- Safety and protection
- Involving communities
- Multi-agency working
- Promoting awareness of rights and services
10. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office responded to this by setting up the Community Liaison Unit in 2000. The role of the Unit was to provide information and support to the victims of forced marriage and professionals who were dealing with cases. In 2005, the Unit developed into a joint Home Office and Foreign & Commonwealth Office Unit known as the Forced Marriage Unit ( FMU).
11. The Forced Marriage Unit deals with approximately 300 to 400 cases of forced marriage a year (469 cases in 2010). Of these, (up until 2009) approximately 10% involved people from Scotland. In 2010 this percentage was significantly less at 2.7%. However it should be clarified that neither the Forced Marriage Unit nor Scottish stakeholders supporting victims of forced marriage believe that this decrease in reporting reflects a real reduction in forced marriage cases in Scotland. A more likely reason is that Scottish victims are seeking advice and support from organisations closer to home, rather than contacting the London-based Forced Marriage Unit. Also the Scottish Government is aware that cases will be under-reported generally as a result of a lack of public awareness of the issue and where to seek help and advice.
12. The main support organisations in Scotland for female victims, who make up 85% of all cases, are Shakti Women's Aid in Edinburgh and Hemat Gryffe Women's Aid in Glasgow. In 2010-11 Shakti Women's Aid supported 12 forced marriage cases and Hemat Gryffe Women's Aid 13 cases. There is no reliable source of information that captures the 14% of cases involving male victims of forced marriage. However, since we know that 20 cases involving female victims make up 86% of all cases, we can estimate that there were at least 4 cases which involved male victims. Forced marriage also affects people with learning and other disabilities, regardless of which cultural community they belong to and evidence suggests that for people with learning disabilities, forced marriage may occur at a similar rate for men and women.
13. Victims are also becoming more visible to the police and there has been joint work between the Association of Chief Police Officers (Scotland) ( ACPOS) and the main support organisations, to increase the confidence of victims to come forward and report honour based violence including forced marriage.
14. The Scottish and UK Governments undertook a joint consultation, Forced Marriage, A Wrong Not a Right, in 2005 to ask whether or not forced marriage should become a criminal offence. Agencies, professionals and individuals were invited to respond to the paper.
15. While there was no clear majority among respondents about whether or not a specific criminal offence should be created, the majority thought that the disadvantages of creating new legislation would outweigh the advantages and potentially drive forced marriage further underground by preventing victims from coming forward. As a consequence of the consultation paper, the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act was enacted in 2007. The Act forms part of the Family Law Act 1996 and makes provision for protecting children, young people and adults in England, Wales and Northern Ireland through the civil courts, from being forced into marriage without their free and full consent.
16. In 2009 the Scottish Government launch a consultation Forced Marriage: A Civil Remedy? which asked whether Scotland should introduce its own civil legislation to protect victims of forced marriage.
17. The consultation was overwhelmingly in favour of the introduction of legislation and led to the development of the Forced Marriage etc. (Protection And Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Bill which was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 29 September 2010. The Bill made provision for protecting people from being forced to enter into marriage without their free and full consent and for protecting those who have been forced to enter into marriage without such consent. It also amended the jurisdiction of the sheriff court in relation to actions for declarator of nullity of marriage. It successfully made its way through the Scottish Parliamentary process in March 2011, received Royal Assent on 27 April 2011 and was commenced on 28 November 2011.