Overhaul Of Immigration Rules: Victims Of Forced Marriage Given Protection
By Sofy Robertson
A change in the law has meant that victims of forced marriage can block their abusers from entering Britain.
Earlier this year, The Times exposed the Home Office’s role in facilitating forced marriages in Britain. Women were taken abroad by their families and forced to get married with many subsequently being raped and impregnated before being sent back to Britain. Their spouses were then free to enter the country as their visas could only be blocked by signing a public objection; which the victims’ families would be able to view. Most refused to waive their anonymity in order to do this and officials therefore allowed their abusers to enter the country.
The change in the immigration rules brought on by The Times investigation means that woman and girls who are coerced into marriage by their families can now give evidence in secret. They will be able to object to their foreign spouse’s visa without fear of repercussions.
The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, announced the change yesterday; two months after The Times revealed that the Home Office was issuing visas to known abusers in forced marriage cases.
Last year, officials revealed numerous reports from victims who wanted to block the visas for spouses they were forced to marry. Almost half of these visas were still approved.
The investigation by The Times brought much-needed publicity to the issue of forced marriage that, although legal in the UK, still occurs with shocking regularity. More than 3500 people have reported forced marriage to the police within the past three years. The amount of forced marriages that have gone unreported are uncountable.
The issue of forced marriage has gained in publicity with significant media companies including the BBC reporting on it. BBC Three’s recent article on forced marriage was written by an anonymous victim and took the issue from the realms of the statistic to the personal.
The change in the rules is a significant step in the right direction towards protecting victims of forced marriage. It comes as a testament to the positive power the media can have upon changing society for the better.