Culture Shift

06.17.142:13 PM ET

Criminalizing Forced Marriage

England and Wales outlaw the practice of forced marriage.

As of Monday, it is a crime in England and Wales to force anyone into marriage, reports The New York Times. While this may come as a surprise to those who thought it was already illegal, forced marriage still occurs in extreme cases of arranged marriage, usually found among South Asians. Social workers estimate between 5,000 to 8,000 cases of forced marriage annually in Britain. The law carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years and defines a forced marriage as one in which one or both spouses are coerced into marrying by “physical, psychological, financial, sexual or emotional pressure.” (In contrast, an arranged marriage is one to which both consent.) The assistant police and crime commissioner for the northwestern county of Lancashire was herself coerced into marriage as a young woman. She told the BBC that action was needed, as “cultures do not change alone."