The Sharan Project Response to Criminalisation of Forced Marriage
8th June 2012
Today, the Government announced it is committed to criminalising forced marriage. They have already committed to criminalising the breach of a Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) so that it will be a crime on a par with non-molestation orders which are used in domestic violence cases and carry a maximum jail terms of up to five years.
Part of a coalition of civil society actors in favour of criminalising forced marriages; The SHARAN Project has released this statement to support this overall decision. It has called for aligning a breach of the Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) to the current maximum sentence for other injunctions – such as domestic violence. In spite of the complex and sensitive nature of this particular issue in the UK, which has seen some between 5,000 and 6,000 reported cases of forced marriage in England – particularly amongst the South Asian community – The SHARAN Project believes that this represents a step in the right direction.
“We are delighted with this news, which we believe will serve to provide a clear message of protection for those women and girls who do not have access to assistance and representation”, said Polly Harrar, Founder of The SHARAN Project. “The criminalisation of the forced marriage is aimed at deterring potential perpetrators and will primarily be a victim-led process, which will not be easy and it is the duty of the Government to ensure that such protection is afforded to all.” “However there is much progress to be made to educate society on the differences between arranged and forced marriage.”
Given that elimination of violence against women and girls has been accorded a high priority by the Government, it is vital that now sustained and holistic efforts will see the actual implementation of this Act through much needed provisions and services to include FMPO’s and resources to adequately build and further enhance the knowledge and capacity of frontline local service providers such as the police, schools, health and social care professionals – to name but a few is crucial.
The criminalisation of forced marriage is the first step. What we need now is a sustained effort from government to prioritise resources to ensure that frontline services have the knowledge and capacity to intervene and help victims much earlier through intervention and preventative measures.
“We believe, part of the solution is collaborative partnership working on a local and national basis by recognising the work of non government organisations who are already working to develop a progressive and sustainable approach on grass roots level”.
“More work is still required to ensure this agenda is tackled and the reporting and support for victims is measured and complimented by well thought out advocacy and information campaigns – which clearly ensure that the general public, as well as victims know where to access help and assistance”.
The SHARAN Project serves and advocates for vulnerable women and girls of South Asian origin, who have been disowned or forcefully or voluntarily left home due to fear of violence, forced marriage and discrimination. Founded with charitable aims in 2007, its vision is grounded in securing equality and justice for South Asian women and girls in the U.K., and it works to assist those that are marginalised to lead an independent life free from fear and coercion. The organisation provides support, advice and safe forums, as well as a range of practical services catered to the needs of the South Asian community. It is part of a civil society movement that demands change for women.
For further information on our work please contact us at and or leave a message on 0844 504 3231.