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Forced Marriage

A Special Bulletin


This special bulletin covers the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007

Paperback i

Book printed softcover

When the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 came into force specialist courts were designated in areas where most cases are expected to arise.

The purpose of the Act is to give family courts the power to prevent attempts to force someone into a marriage where they do not consent. If such a marriage has already taken place the court will be able to make orders to protect the victim while helping to remove them from the situation (similar to injunctive relief).

Recognising that vulnerability may prevent victims being able to apply in their own right, the Act allows interested third parties to apply with the leave of the court on behalf of the victim.
  • Forced Marriage - An Introduction
  • The Development of Policy
  • Existing Remedies for Forced Marriage
  • Applications for Forced Marriage Protection Orders
  • Practical Guidance: Applications for Forced Marriage Protection Orders
  • Procedure Post Application
  • Enforcement of Forced Marriage Protection Orders


  • Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act2007
  • The Family Proceedings (Amendment) Rules 2008
  • The Family Proceedings (Amendment) Rules 2009
  • The Right to Choose: Multi-agency Statutory Guidance for Dealing with Forced Marriage
  • Court Forms
  • Sample Orders and Affidavits
  • Funding Information
  • Useful Contacts
"A refreshingly interesting read! ... This book rather helpfully sets out almost everything you need to know when preparing for a case of this nature ... a step by step guide to managing a forced marriage case"
Family Law 

"This book reviews the legal aspects as enforced in the United Kingdom by a civil protection act (2007)"

Pediatric Endocrinology Reviews (PER)
The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 came into force on 25 November 2008, introducing a new remedy to protect the actual or potential victims of forced marriage: the forced marriage protection order. The legislation inserted a new Part 4A into the existing Family Law Act 1996.

This Bulletin is intended to provide practical guidance to legal practitioners and other front line practitioners concerned in making, and responding to, applications for forced marriage protection orders.

Forced marriage is a complex issue, encompassing sociology, religion, politics and the law. We hope that Chapters 1 and 2 of this Bulletin provide a useful overview of some of the wider dynamics, and the political and social background to the legislation. Chapter 3 provides an overview of existing remedies.

Chapters 4 to 7 are concerned with the provisions of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007. The legislation is novel from a number of key perspectives. A forced marriage protection order is capable of containing wide-ranging prohibitions and requirements, emulating orders previously only available on application to the Family Division. The orders can be directed to control the behaviour of both named respondents and unnamed persons.

Powers of arrest can be attached to the order to enable swift enforcement. Finally, the legislation introduces the concept of the ‘Relevant Third Party’, who may apply on behalf of a victim without leave of the court.

This Bulletin is published shortly before a significant development relating to this last issue: on 1 November 2009 a local authority will have the status of a ‘Relevant Third Party’, and may apply for a forced marriage protection order on behalf of a victim without leave of the court.

It is hoped that this will further increase the access to justice for victims of forced marriage: a victim may be physically prevented from bringing an application in their own right; they may be subjected to intolerable emotional pressure; they may have been taken out of the jurisdiction; the victim concerned might be a child.

Prior to the introduction of this legislation, a local county court was able to offer only limited assistance to a victim of forced marriage and cases were traditionally heard in the Principal Registry. Forced marriage protection orders may be sought not just in the High Court, but also in specialist forced marriage county courts across the country.

We hope that fellow practitioners across England and Wales will find this Bulletin of assistance.

The law is stated as at 31 August 2009.
Clive Heaton QC
Louise McCallum

In 1999 Alice Mahon, the then MP for Halifax, and I decided that the time had come to go public on our anxieties regarding the ever-growing number of young people we were helping to avoid the consequences of forced marriage. Little did we realise that it would take almost 10 years before measures would come into force to provide a legal redress for such victims.

On 10 February 1999 I was successful in obtaining an adjournment debate, the title of which was ‘Women’s Human Rights’. Alice and I had decided not to refer openly to forced marriages in the title, such were our worries about telling the story that we knew only too well.

The previous week we had gone along to see Jack Straw in his Commons Office to explain our plan of seeking changes by openly talking about and challenging this problem, which he, given his constituency, also knew well. We told Jack that we hoped it would not cause him too many problems, either as Home Secretary or as a Blackburn MP. He, in the kindest words, said we should not worry about him, but we may have a few difficulties as a result of taking on this, at the time, taboo subject.
Jack was quite right to warn us. We both were given a hard time by our Asian male constituents.

The exercise, however, was worthwhile, in that Mike O’Brien, then Minister of State at the Home Office, was amazingly positive in his response to the debate. We were surprised that he was prepared not to dodge the issue as we expected, but agreed to set up a working group and clearly announced the Government meant business
The following are extracts from Mike O Brien’s comments, Hansard 10 February 1999:
‘I shall now deal with the issue of forced marriages. I wish to state clearly that forced
marriages are wrong. It is distressing to hear of instances of young people entering marriages not with joy and expectation, but with trepidation and fear. That treatment of a woman within a marriage or a relationship is unacceptable. We cannot tolerate compulsion on individuals to marry. The Government have put human rights at the heart of their agenda, and incorporated the European convention in UK law. The United Nations universal declaration on human rights states that “marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses”.’

‘The Government must respond sensitively on those issues, but multicultural sensitivity is no excuse for official silence or moral blindness. We long ago abolished laws that treated women as chattels. We cannot shelter or tolerate bad practices under the guise of sensitivity.’

‘The Government are aware of the issue of forced marriages. We will not retreat into silence on these matters. The communities involved should not ignore the fate of these girls. The victims may be small in number, but their voice will not be ignored. The vast majority of members of their community condemn their ill treatment, and many of them have spoken out.’

In August 1999 the Working Group on Forced Marriage was set up. As a result of the advice of that Working Group, which included Baroness Pola Uddin and Lord Nazir Ahmed, we eventually saw the setting up of the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), a joint venture by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Home Office. A hotline was established to give advice to young people who had been, or were about to be, forced to marry someone that they all too often had never met, didn’t want to marry and certainly didn’t want to sponsor that person for entry clearance as a spouse.

The FMU and the guidelines that eventually went out to police forces, schools and health workers were a great help. However, it took until 2007 and a Private Members Bill introduced in the Lords by the Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Lester, helped by Baroness Cathy Ashton as Leader of the Lords, to ensure its passage through the upper house. I did a fair bit of pushing with ministers in the Commons, including Tony Blair the Prime Minister. Eventually and amazingly the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 came into force on 25 November 2008.

Almost immediately a woman doctor was saved from a forced marriage by the use of this Act and was returned from Bangladesh. This of course is not the end of the story; the success or otherwise of this measure will depend on getting the information out to practitioners, which is why I willingly accepted the invitation of Louise McCallum, Clive Heaton QC and Razia Jogi to write a foreword for their Special Bulletin on the Act.
The influence of the Act will, of course, also depend on victims and potential victims knowing about it and I understand that previous guidelines to police forces, schools and health workers will now be updated to take into account this new development. Eventually I hope the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 will become redundant, since I believe a silent majority of our ethnic community citizens already disapprove of parents, families and biraderies1 forcing young people into marriage. Their views will eventually spread to the cruel minority and this Act will no longer be needed.

Meanwhile, and finally, may I give my heartfelt thanks to Louise, Clive and Razia for publishing this special and much-needed Bulletin.

Ann Cryer MP

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