While Number 10 pats itself on the back for their announcement today that forced marriage will become illegal in the UK, it must be asked why has it taken so long?
The United Nations has long considered forced marriage as a form of human rights abuse, since it violates the principle of the freedom and autonomy of individuals. Although the UK passed the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act in 2007 which enables the victims of forced marriage to apply for court orders for their protection, this is clearly not enough given the new much harsher laws against forced marriage.
Prime Minister David Cameron said today that
While this statement is certainly true, if the issue was deemed troubling enough to pass the 2007 act, why was it not taken further then? This year alone (January to May 2012), the Forced Marriage Unit has provided advice or support to nearly 600 cases. Forced marriage is an issue that has been widely acknowledged for decades and from the statistics is an persistent problem, why has it taken so long?
Although a little delayed, the new law announced today is undoubtedly a positive move, and despite the UK's apparent hesitation in outlawing forced marriage before it is still the country taking the most decisive steps against the practice. Forced marriage has only been criminalised in about eight jurisdictions in the U.S. there are very few U.S. laws preventing forced marriage and there are no federal laws addressing the issue. In this regard, the U.S. falls far behind the United Kingdom.