Scotland has issued the first protection order to protect a victim of forced marriage, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has revealed.
The legislation, which was introduced in Scotland on 28th November 2011, is the first in the UK to make it a criminal offence to breach an Order, leading to a two year prison sentence, a fine, or both.
Ms. Sturgeon revealed the news when she visited Cardonald College in Glasgow on 16th April 2012 to mark the end of the first phase of an awareness drive to encourage greater use and understanding of the legislation.
Speaking as she visited the college, Ms. Sturgeon said: “All people in Scotland who are eligible to marry or enter into a civil partnership should have the right to do so freely without coercion.
“Scotland is leading the way in this legislation in ensuring that anyone who breaches a Protection Order – and anyone aiding or abetting them – will feel the full force of the law. We know people who refuse are often subjected to threats, assault, captivity or worse at the hands of their own family.”
She said that she has always made it “very clear that forced marriage has no place in 21st century Scotland.”
“We need to make sure that those affected by forced marriage receive the help and support they need,” she added.
As part of the awareness drive, a unique wedding dress, created by Glasgow-based Anjali’s Boutique, has been decorated with supportive messages from men and women with first-hand experience of forced marriage, together with counsellors from a range of Scottish support agencies who have provided help and guidance to those affected.
Over 40 messages of support have already been added to the dress, and they include, “Do not be afraid of taking a step forward. You are not alone. Let your flower bloom.”, “My choice and my freedom to choose” and “Stay strong, speak out, get help”.
The wedding display has toured further education establishments across Scotland to raise awareness of the issue of forced marriage amongst young people, who have added their own messages of support to the dress.
The introduction of forced marriage legislation also appears to have prompted an increase in the number of black and minority ethnic women calling an abuse helpline.
Around 50 people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds have been assisted by the Scottish forced marriage and domestic abuse helpline since the legislation came into force in Scotland on 28th November 2011.
Susan Walsh, Principal and Chief Executive, Cardonald College Glasgow said: “Forcing someone to marry can never be justified, so we are very pleased to support the Scottish Government’s campaign to help those affected by this unacceptable practice.
“Having the wedding outfits on display at Cardonald College Glasgow for a week has been an excellent way of engaging students with the issue and as an institution with a high BME population, this is something we feel is particularly relevant to our student body.”