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Academic's role in forced marriage law

University of Roehampton academic Dr Aisha K. Gill has played a key role in researching and drafting the new law making forced marriage a criminal offence, which came into operation this week.

Posted: 19 June 2014

image for news story Academic's role in forced marriage law
Dr Aisha K Gill, from the Department of Social Sciences

The provisions of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 means parents who force their children to wed could be punished by a jail term of up to seven years. Until now, judges have only been able to issue civil orders to stop victims being coerced into marriage.

The new law also means that breaching a Forced Marriage Protection Order, available to courts to prevent individuals being married against their will, will become a criminal offence, which carries a punishment of up to five years in prison.

Dr Gill, a criminologist who specialises in this field, said: “Putting forced marriage on the criminal statute books brings huge leverage to potential victims, and moves the issue from being purely a cultural concern, to having a new legal dimension. The onus is now on Government and public sector services to step up and ensure absolutely all support networks are in place to help people who may be victims, from the outset.

“The fact we now have a written distinction must make it easier for police and the courts to protect people, but challenges will exist in terms of implementing this law. Children will find it emotionally difficult to take parents to court, and there will be family pressures to withdraw cases. That only serves to highlight even more the need for the Coalition Government to give people full support and have evidence collected from the moment they become aware of this harmful practice.”

Dr Gill is one of many research-active teaching academics at Roehampton whose work directly impacts on Government policy. Her work on the forced marriage sections of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 means she is at the forefront of the national debate on this issue. She was interviewed by both the BBC and Sky News when the law came into effect on Monday 16 June 2014. 

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