West Yorkshire Police have teamed up with two partner agencies to help stamp out forced marriages in today’s society with a new campaign launched last week.
As of the 1st June 2014, forced marriages are illegal in the UK and any person’s found guilty of committing the crime could face up to seven years imprisonment.
A series of radio advertisements are now being broadcast with posters and leaflets also being released across the county which emphasise the ‘right to choose’.
A charity which supports victims of the crime, Karma Nirvana, helped publicise the information at a roadshow last week alongside the local police force and the Home Office Forced Marriage Unit.
Although latest statistics released by the government’s Forced Marriage Unit show that they handled 1,302 cases in 2013, Karma Nirvana founder, Jasvinder Sanghera, believes the actual figure of couples involved in forced marriages is over 100,000 in the UK.
West Yorkshire Police’s Assistant Chief Constable John Robins has released an on-line video to raise awareness and urges people not to suffer in silence.
“Forced marriage is a crime where one or both spouses do not, or cannot, consent to the marriage and duress is involved,” he said. “This can include physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure.
“But let me make it really clear that this is not the same as an 'arranged marriage’ which is a totally legal practice and involves the consent of both spouses.”
‘Forced Marriage’ is not specifically attached to a particular belief, culture nor is it condoned through religion.
The majority of reports received by West Yorkshire Police relate to women or girls aged between 13 and 30. However, victims are not exclusively female, both men and women, young and old can be victims of forced marriage.
“Someone forced to marry may find it very difficult to take action to prevent it happening or initiate action to end a forced marriage,” Chief Constable Robins added.
“They may be subjected to sexual and ongoing domestic abuse, and in some cases, suffer violence and abuse from extended family members. These victims can end up feeling trapped in a relationship through violence and abuse.
“We will be taking a ‘victim led approach’ in delivering the new Forced Marriage legislation. This will respect the views of victims, provide the necessary support, confidentiality and protection from harm.”
A dedicated page has now been launched on the West Yorkshire Police website, www.westyorkshire.police.uk /forcedmarriage which provides information and advice around the latest legislation.
Anyone can report an offence or suspected offence in confidence and anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or direct to the police on the non-emergency number 101.