It is now a criminal offence to force someone into marriage in Scotland.
A forced marriage is defined as one where either or both parties do not or cannot consent to the marriage and coercion is involved.
The new offence comes in addition to protections previously in place: Scottish courts already had the power to implement Forced Marriage Protection Orders, which offer protection for both men and women who are affected by forced marriage.
As a result of that legislation, Scotland was the first place in the UK to make it a criminal offence to breach an order, with penalties of a fine, up to two years in prison or both.
Commenting on the criminalisation of forced marriage, which took effect on 30 September, Cabinet Secretary for Equalities Shona Robison said that it was a welcome step in protecting some of the most vulnerable people.
“Not only does this move send a strong message of support to victims but it also demonstrates Scotland’s unequivocal opposition to forced marriage to countries where this is prevalent and where there is a lack of a domestic legal infrastructure to protect people,” Robison added.
Siobhan Reardon from Amnesty International Scotland welcomed the new legislation in a letter to the Scotsman newspaper.
“By making forced marriage a criminal offence, the government recognises the devastating impact it has, particularly on women and girls; denying them their human rights and placing them at further risk of physical, emotional and sexual violence,” she wrote.
The change in the law was also welcomed by Lily Greenan, manager of Scottish Women’s Aid, who said that Scottish Women’s Aid and its member groups Shakti Women’s Aid and Hemat Gryffe Women’s Aid would be delivering an updated package of training to front-line practitioners on this issue.