The government plans to raise the minimum age when someone can apply fo ra marriage visa to 21. Records show that on average 30% of known forced marriage cases involve victims aged 21 and younger.
Proponents hope that raising the minimum age for a marriage visa will help protect men and women being forced into wedlock.
The cross-governmental forced marriage unit fields approximately 5,000 enquiries and investigates about 400 cases of forced marriage each year.
Other key proposals include:
- asking foreign spouses to learn English before they come to the UK;
- revoking leave to remain visas if border officers suspect the marriage is forced;
- requiring people to register their intention to marry overseas before they leave the UK for the wedding; and
- ensuring that specialist teams are trained to identify people who might be at risk of being forced into an unwanted marriage
'No place in our society'
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said forcing people to marry leads to "years of physical and mental abuse," and can result in imprisonment and rape.
"It has no place in our society," she said.
The government plans to do everything it can to stamp out the practice and ensure that victims receive help and support.
Protecting Young People from Lives of Misery
Requiring all British citizens who want to ‘sponsor’ someone to come to the UK on a marriage visa to declare their intention to marry abroad could ensure that young people aren't tricked into an overseas marriage.
Also, because having the ability to speak and understand English will make it easier for foreign spouses to seek help and explain their situation to police, all foreign spouses in the UK on marriage visas will be required to learn English.
Before they can come to the UK, they would sign an agreement to learn English. Soon after their arrival, border officers will check to see if they are learning the language. If not, their leave could be cancelled.
Striking a Delicate Balance
Border and Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said the new laws must strike a delicate balance.
"British citizens have the right to marry whoever they choose. But we want newcomers to succeed in our society and sign up to the standards we have in common," he explained.
"That means freedom, not being forced to marry someone, and it means newcomers quickly acquiring a command of English."