VICTIMS of forced marriage in Scotland will benefit from greater protection with new legislation being introduced today (Monday).
Scottish courts now have the power to issue Forced Marriage Protection Orders, which offer increased protection for both men and women who are affected by forced marriage.
The legislation is the first in the UK to make it a criminal offence to breach an Order, leading to a two year prison sentence, a fine, or both.
Courts can tailor the terms of the Protection Order according to the specific needs of the victim, for example, to ensure people are taken to a place of safety or help those in danger of being taken abroad for marriage.
Visiting Amina, the Muslim Women’s Resource Centre, in Glasgow to mark the introduction of the legislation, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “All people in Scotland who are eligible to marry or enter into a civil partnership should have the right to do so freely without coercion.
“We know people who refuse are often subjected to threats, assault, captivity or worse at the hands of their own family.
“The introduction of this legislation will help us ensure that forced marriage has no place in 21st century Scotland, by providing flexible legal support to allow victims to get their lives back on track.
“And Scotland is leading the way in ensuring that anyone who breaches a Protection Order – and anyone aiding or abetting them – will feel the full force of the law.”
Smina Akhtar, Director of Amina the Muslim Women’s Resource Centre, said: “Forced Marriage is not acceptable within any major religion. This law will mean that victims of forced marriage will no longer be alone and have to suffer in silence.
“By passing this law the Scottish Government has given a voice to a silent minority and a lifeline to many young people who until now have had nowhere to turn for help and support.”
Existing powers to annul a forced marriage have also been reformed to make the process easier.
People at risk themselves or anyone worried about someone’s welfare, including local authorities, can apply for a Protection Order.
Urgent interim Orders will be made in situations where, for example, someone is in immediate danger or at risk of being taken abroad.