AGENCIES from across South Wales gathered in Newport yesterday to discuss the changes in the law surrounding the criminalisation of forced marriage and how best to support victims.
Under current law, forced marriage in England and Wales is not a specific criminal offence.
But the Government has introduced clauses in the Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill which will criminalise both forced marriage and breach of a Forced Marriage Protection Order.
Nazir Afzal OBE, chief crown prosecutor for the North West of England and a former legal director in the Crown Prosecution Service, spoke of the dangers of honour-based violence and forced marriage.
He said: “People think it’s an exotic issue but we know it’s happening here in Newport. It happens in families you would never imagine.”
The amended bill appeared before the House of Lords on Monday for its third reading and is expected to pass through Parliament in the coming months.
Mr Afzal said forced marriage was often followed by a “tsunami” of domestic abuse and that no known religion actually condoned it. Education, he said, was vital.
“It needs to start in kindergarten and primary school. These people who are killers or force marriages are groomed to think this way,” he said.
The conference at the Civic Centre was organised by the Henna Foundation, a registered charity committed to strengthening families in the Muslim community.