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Wednesday, November 26, 2008
International

Britain clamps down on forced marriages with eye on Pakistan

Britain introduced a new law yesterday bolstering rules against forced marriages, after Foreign Secretary David Miliband highlighted a case in Pakistan ahead of a visit there.

The new law allows courts to stop forced marriages and provide protection to those who have been married against their will.

It also gives judges the power to require individuals to reveal the whereabouts of people thought to be at risk of being forced into marriage, stop potential victims from being taken aboad, and seize passports.

According to the country's Forced Marriages Unit (FMU), 65 percent of known cases of the practice involve Pakistan, where Miliband is set to visit later this week.

In a newspaper article Sunday, Miliband said Britain was taking a tougher stand against forced marriage, describing the practice as "a stain on those who carry it out, those who condone it and also those who ignore it."

He recounted the tale of British diplomats rescuing a 15-year-old girl last week from a village near Mirpur in northern Pakistan, where she was being held prisoner and beaten by her father to get her to agree to marriage.

So far this year, the FMU has handled more than 1,500 reports of forced marriage and diplomats across the world have helped more than 400 people facing possible forced marriage or being made to sponsor an immigration visa after marriage has taken place, Miliband said.

Under the new laws, those who do not comply with court orders related to forced marriage, which can be sought by a victim, a friend or the police, could face jail.

"This new law is a powerful tool that will help ensure that no-one is forced into marriage against their will and those already in such marriages will receive protection," junior justice minister Bridget Prentice said.

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