Police Launch Forced Marriage Crackdown At UK Airports

Police Launch Forced Marriage Crackdown At UK Airports During School Holidays

Police are visiting airports across the country in an effort to prevent children being taken abroad for forced marriages.

Operation Limelight is running over the school holiday period, from 15 July to 19 July, and will see police and Border Force officers visit airports across England and Wales.

They will be training airline staff to identify the signs of forced marriage to boost reporting to the police. Intelligence is also being used to identify victims who are about to leave or have just returned to the UK, police say.

“Forced marriage is a violation of human rights,” said Commander Ivan Balhatchet, the National Police Chief’s Council lead for forced marriage. “The isolation, threats and violence that victims experience means that this is not something that can be tackled by police alone.”

The operation is being run in partnership with children’s charity the NSPCC and the Freedom Charity, which works to eliminate forced marriage.

Commander Balhatchet added: “I urge anyone with concerns around forced marriage, or any other harmful practices affecting our children or vulnerable adults to come forward and tell police. We will treat each individual case sensitively and confidentially.”

Aneeta Prem, founder of Freedom Charity said: “We know it’s when potential victims are more likely to be taken abroad by their families to attend a wedding, not knowing that it is their own.

“Once someone is abroad it can take a great deal of effort to get them back to the UK safely and so this operation at airports is vital as it’s the last chance to save someone from a forced marriage.”

What Is Forced Marriage?

Credit: Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Forced-marriage.jpg

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Forced marriage is when a person is physically, emotionally or psychologically pressured into marrying another person against their will. It is one which one or both spouses do not, or cannot, agree to.

Violence, threats and coercion are often involved and it is different from an arranged marriage where both parties can refuse to marry if they choose to.

Forced marriage became a criminal offence in the UK under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. Forcing someone to marry can result in a sentence of up to seven years in prison. The offence includes taking someone overseas to force them to marry.

Breaking Down The Data

What About Human Rights?

Article 16(2) of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) says: “marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.”

The Human Rights Convention translates the UDHR into enforceable human rights in Europe. Article 12 expresses the right to marry and found a family. It says that: “men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of that right.”

Although it does not mention the need for the consent of the intending spouses like the UDHR does, British judges have interpreted the Article to mean that there is a right ‘not to marry’. This means that forcing someone into marriage violates their human right not to marry under Article 12 of the ECHR.

Featured Image Credit: Suhyeon Choi / Unsplash.

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About the Author

Aaron Walawalkar

News and Digital Editor
Aaron is an NCTJ-accredited multimedia journalist focussing on human rights. His extensive reporting on rough sleeping in east London has been nominated for multiple awards. He has worked for regional and national newspapers and produced illustrations, infographics and videos for humanitarian organisation RedR UK. View all posts by Aaron Walawalkar.
Police Launch Forced Marriage Crackdown At UK Airports During School Holidays
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