, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 267-288

Protecting Victims of Forced Marriage: Is Age a Protective Factor?

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This paper explores the UK’s legal interventions in the arena of forced marriage. Three key initiatives have been considered in the last 5 years: creating a specific crime of forced marriage; civil rather than criminal protection for victims; and an increase in the age of entry for non-EU spouses, with a corresponding increase in age for sponsoring such spouses. Our key focus is on the last of these interventions and we draw upon a research study conducted in the UK in 2006/2007 exploring the risks and benefits associated with increasing the age of sponsorship and entry. The UK government’s argument is that the increased maturity which comes from being older acts as a protective factor, thus making it easier to resist forced marriage. This view of maturity gains its saliency from developmental psychology. Here, we critically analyse the construct of age and the link between age and ability to resist forced marriage. We illustrate through the accounts of victims of forced marriage and of stakeholders the difficulties of adopting age as a central organising feature of protection for potential victims of forced marriage.