FORCED marriage is a particular form of honour-based violence and the Scottish Parliament tackled that issue in the Forced Marriage etc (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act 2011, which came into force on April 28 last year.
It’s no surprise that the Act hasn’t been much used since then – forced marriage in Scotland is low incidence, high impact. But when it does happen it’s disastrous and potentially fatal for the people concerned.
The terms of the new law are surprisingly wide – not only can the potential victim ask the court for a forced marriage protection order – so can employees of a local authority, such as social workers, and anybody who gets permission of the court.
It may be a neighbour, friend or another family member who has the inside track on what is happening and who is more able than the victim to go to the court.
In Scotland, the breach of a forced marriage protection order is a separate crime, punishable by imprisonment for up to two years.
Of course, in the context of honour-based violence some things are sometimes done which are in themselves crimes – such as assaults and threats – and these can be punished separately.
The essential thing about the new Act is that it will not work without public education. We have to explain to the potential victims that they do not have to put up with forced marriage. We have to educate the potential perpetrators. And we have to educate the general public about this form of domestic violence, which affects more young Scots than we sometimes like to think.
• John Fotheringham is a family law specialist solicitor with Lindsays