October 12, 2011

Ban on non-EU young spouses declared unlawful

by Jan Harris

A ban designed to deter forced marriages has been found to interfere with human rights, by the Supreme Court.

The ban on non-EU foreign spouses under the age of 21 coming to the UK was introduced by the Labour government in 2008, in response to growing concern about British Asian girls being forced to marry men from overseas.

However the rule was challenged by two couples who claimed that it interfered with their right to a private and family life and therefore contravened the European Convention on Human Rights.

This view was upheld by Lord Wilson in the Supreme Court, who said: “What seems clear is that the number of unforced marriages which it obstructs from their intended development for up to three years vastly exceeds the number of forced marriages which it deters”.

Four of five law lords rejected an appeal by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, against scrapping the law, saying the ban was arbitrary and disruptive.

However, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood spoke out against the ruling, and said that the ban was needed to combat forced marriage, a practice which he said was “appalling evil”.

On Monday, in a speech on immigration rules, David Cameron laid out plans to address forced and bogus marriages.

He announced a consultation into making it a criminal offence to force a person to marry against their will and said that forced marriage was “little more than slavery”.

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