VICTIMS of forced marriages in England and Wales are set to be given anonymity for life under amendments to the policing and crime bill.
The government measure, which is modelled on the anonymity order for victims of female genital mutilation (FGM) introduced last year, will apply to victims from the time an allegation of forced marriage is made.
It means any publication or broadcast of information likely to result in identifi- cation of a victim to the public will be prohibited in traditional print and broadcast media, as well as social media such as Facebook and Twitter. This information includes names, photographs and any other details that would likely result in the identification of a victim.
Forced marriage became a criminal offence in England and Wales under the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, the relevant section of which came into force in June 2014.
The offence is defined as a marriage in which one or both spouses do not con- sent, and in which violence, threats or any other form of coercion is involved.
The legislation also criminalises breaches of a forced marriage protection order (FMPO), which can prevent a person from being taken overseas or order that they be returned to the UK. There is a maximum penalty of seven years for committing a forced marriage offence and five years for breaching an FMPO.
The UK’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) – a joint Foreign Office and Home Office unit set up in January 2005 to lead on the government’s forced marriage policy – gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1,220 cases in 2015.