The British government is considering a proposal to ban forced marriages, making clerics, imams, and parents liable for prosecution. The proposal comes in response to the estimated hundreds of British Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu women forced into arranged marriages each year.
Currently, British parents who force their children into marriage can be prosecuted on counts of kidnapping and assault. But the British police says that specific laws targeting forced marriage are needed to ease prosecution and send a clear message to young people about their rights, according to Garavi Gujarat, an Asian newsweekly.
Supporters of such laws call forced marriages a human rights violation that often is accompanied by physical abuse. Sixty percent of women who seek refuge at Ashiana, a London service for Asian domestic violence victims, come fleeing forced marriages, according to the Christian Science Monitor. “We hear stories of rapes, abductions, beatings, forced abortions, and forced pregnancies,” says Vinay Talwar, the head of the British Foreign Office’s Forced Marriage Unit, according to BBC News. The Unit has dealt with 1,000 cases of forced marriage in its five years of existence, according to the Guardian.