Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Tougher guidance on forced marriages

Statutory guidance emanating from the Forced Marriages Act 2007 comes into effect later this autumn. The draft guidance was published as a consultation in July and is likely to change very little in its final form.

Public authorities, including many schools and colleges, will be obliged to have regard to the guidance and therefore its status is much more compelling than previous guidance on the DSCF website from the Forced Marriages Unit.

The guidance makes it clear that forced marriage is a form of child abuse and a breach of human rights.

It says that in dealing with community groups or families which view forced marriage as acceptable, public bodies should make it clear that forced marriage is contrary to British law, that it can lead to a range of criminal offences and civil orders and that the public body has a duty to prevent breaches of the law.

If there are concerns that a child - male or female - is in danger of a forced marriage, schools or colleges should contact the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) on 020 7008 0151 where experienced caseworkers are able to offer support and guidance. The police and children's social care should also be contacted.

Schools and colleges should bear in mind that mediation as a response to forced marriage can be extremely dangerous. Refusal to go through with a forced marriage has, in the past, been linked to so-called 'honour crimes'.

The DCSF is reissuing guidance for education professionals later this autumn following publication of the statutory guidance.

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