New legislation making forced marriage a criminal offence has been welcomed by former Keighley MP Ann Cryer, who campaigned for many years on the issue.
The law change means that from June 16, those found guilty of instigating a forced marriage could face up to seven years in prison.
Mrs Cryer, who spoke out strongly against the practice during her 13 years as the town’s Labour MP, said this week: “I welcome the legislation and am grateful to the present government for introducing it.
“I don’t wish to see Asian parents put in prison, but I do want daughters – and in some cases, sons – to have the benefits of this sort of legislation, which gives them the right to say ‘I do not want this’ and the option to report it to the police.
“My hope is this legislation won’t need to be used, but it will offer extra protection to girls and boys.”
Keighley Central councillor Khadim Hussain, who is also Lord Mayor of Bradford, said: “I have always believed that consent to marriage must be taken on board anyway. This means it will also now be a case of respecting the law.”
West Yorkshire Police and other agencies involved in tackling forced marriage have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the issue, with publicity material on the ‘right to choose’.
The force’s Assistant Chief Constable, John Robins, has urged 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.
“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 associated with any one culture or belief. Most of the cases referred to West Yorkshire Police involve victims in the 13 to 30 age group, and while most are female, some are male.
“Someone forced to marry may find it very difficult to take action to prevent it happening or initiate action to end a forced marriage,” added Mr Robins.
“We will be taking a ‘victim-led approach’ in delivering the new forced marriage legislation. This will respect the views of victims and provide the necessary support, confidentiality and protection from harm.
“Our campaign aims to raise awareness of the issues surrounding forced marriage, including the indicators of this crime and the potential consequences for perpetrators. It is also designed to prevent forced marriage in the first place, empowering victims and prompting enforcement activity.”
- What do you think? E-mail richard.parker@-keighleynews.co.uk or write to the Keighley News, 80-86 North Street, Keighley BD21 3AG.