New offence of forced marriage to be introduced by Minister

Charlie Flanagan says law allowing those under 18 years marry will be repealed

Domestic violence legislation introduced in the Dáil by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan provides for a new criminal offence of forced marriage.

This will apply in cases where a person is forced to marry without consent, or where it is given under duress, through emotional, physical, sexual or financial pressure.

Circumstances where an adult or a child is removed or lured from Ireland to another territory and forced to enter into a marriage are covered under the Bill.

Mr Flanagan said legislative provisions enabling persons under 18 years to marry would be repealed.


He said there would also be a new offence of coercive control under the Domestic Violence Bill 2017.

“This is psychological abuse in an intimate relationship that causes fear of violence, or serious alarm or distress that has a substantial adverse impact on a person’s day-to-day activities,’’ he added.

Mr Flanagan said safety orders would be available to persons in intimate and committed relationships but not cohabiting.

Victims of domestic violence would be able to apply for an emergency barring order lasting for eight working days, where there was an immediate risk of significant harm, he added.

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty said the fact that the perpetrator of a violent or sexual offence was a current or former partner should be an aggravating factor and not used in mitigation.

She said men who killed their current or former partners received prison sentences shorter by an average of 2.8 years than those imposed on men killing women they did not know.

Ms Doherty said somewhere in the judicial system, or in wider society, the message to the woman lying on the kitchen floor, her eyes swollen from fists to her face, was at least the perpetrator was somebody she knew.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan said for many years spouses, overwhelmingly women, had been subjected to violence, which was unacceptable.

“It is important that we as a State put into our laws specific requirements and prohibitions on acts of domestic violence and measures that can be taken by victims of violence for the purpose of trying to protect themselves and indeed their families,’’ he added.

Labour TD Jan O'Sullivan said the legislation had been a long time coming and much work had been put into it by the Department of Justice and the Minister.

She said the Dáil’s task was to ensure the Bill was as strong and as enabling as possible for people involved in cases of domestic violence and who urgently needed to be able to get out and move on with their lives in a way that would keep them and their children safe.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said the scale of non-reporting of domestic violence was scary, with many reasons for it.

“Most women are led to believe that somehow it is their fault that they are abused or that they asked for it,’’ she added. “Sometimes they are told this by others, such as relatives, but society also sends messages indicating they have made their bed and now must lie on it.’’

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times