Founded in 2013, the National Commission on Forced Marriage is an independent body chaired by the Rt Hon Baroness Butler-Sloss.
The Commission has consulted more than two hundred and fifty individuals to date. We have had conversations with survivors of forced marriage, across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland – and often met some of them several times over the years. These discussions enabled us to learn more about the different contexts in which a forced marriage is likely to happen, and all too often, its traumatic, ugly, and tragic consequences.
We salute the courage of the men, women, and children - survivors - who shared their experiences with us, often reliving painful and traumatic memories.
The Commissioners met many committed individuals who work tirelessly in voluntary sector organisations on shoe-string budgets. We witnessed their quotidian efforts to risk-assess; support, advise and counsel; provide refuge, and safeguard those at risk - alongside their efforts to fundraise in order to continue their work, as well as raise awareness of, and combat forced marriage.
We had discussions with activists; campaigners; counsellors; academics; legal professionals and members of the media to make ourselves familiar with the wider discourse on forced marriage.
Anne-Marie Hutchinson, described by our Chair as, 'a pillar of the Commission' gave generously of her time and advice, and kept us informed and abreast with the latest developments in the rapidly changing landscape of the law on forced marriage. Read about Anne-Marie here.
To review and understand the state's response to forced marriage, we met members of local government and statutory bodies; spokespersons from quangos, government departments including education, health, housing, the Home Office, the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), the police, and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Our consultation with representatives of all major political parties is on-going.
We are very grateful to all those who spoke to us and gave so generously of their time.
In COVID-19 times, our consultations have been on zoom.
Please read our Terms of Reference to find out more about our work.
The Rt. Hon. Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss GBE
Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss GBE was appointed to the House of Lords in 2006. She was president of the Family Division from 1 October 1999 – 6 April 2005, and prior to that date registrar at the Principal Registry of Probate, later Family Division, then a Judge of the High Court Family Division and first lady Lord Justice of Appeal in 1988-99. She was chairman of the Cleveland Child Abuse Inquiry 1987-8.
Called to the Bar by Inner Temple, 1955; Bencher 1979. The Treasurer of the Inner Temple in 1998. In practice at the Bar 1955 – 1970. She is a former Chairman of the St.Paul’s Cathedral Advisory Committee, a former Chancellor of the University of the West of England, a former governor of Merchant Taylors’ School, a governor of Coram, and a patron of the Grandparents Association. She is a visitor to St Hilda’s College Oxford and Hon Fellow and Visitor of St Hilda’s and Hon Fellow of Peterhouse and Corpus Christi Colleges, Cambridge and King’s College London and of several medical colleges. She is currently chairing a Commission on forced marriage and another on Multi-Faith Britain.
She is co-chairman of a parliamentary group on human trafficking/modern slavery and a trustee of the Human Trafficking Foundation. She is a member of a panel chaired by Frank Field MP hearing evidence on modern-day slavery at the request of the Home Secretary. This is intended to assist the Home Office in drafting a Modern Slavery Bill which will be introduced next year.
You can watch Baroness Butler-Sloss' introduction to the work of the Commision here
Anne-Marie Hutchinson OBE, QC (Hon)
Commissioner (sadly passed away 02/10/2020)
Anne-Marie Hutchinson OBE, QC (Hon) became a solicitor in 1985; she was a Partner at Dawson Cornwell. Anne-Marie specialised in all aspects of domestic and international family law and the international movement of children. She acted for abandoned spouses, FGM and Honour-Based Violence and assisted in the protection of 150+ forced marriage victims.
Anne-Marie was also a specialist in surrogacy arrangements and surrogacy with an international element and co-parenting agreements. She was awarded the inaugural UNICEF Child Rights Lawyer Award 1999. She received an OBE for her services to international child abduction and adoption in 2002. She was Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year 2004 for her work with the victims of forced marriage and she received the International Bar Association’s Outstanding International Woman Lawyer Award 2010. In 2011 she received a True Honour Award from IKWRO and an “Albert” by the Albert Kennedy Trust in recognition of her international work defending the human rights of young LGBT people. In 2012 she was named International Family Lawyer of the Year in the Jordans Family Law Awards.
Anne-Marie was a regular speaker and lecturer both. She was a member of various committees and was the Chair of the Women Lawyers’ Interest Group of the International Bar Association.
Clare Renton is a barrister specialising in international family law. She has appeared in numerous reported cases in family law – most recently Re RS (Forced Marriage Protection Order)  EWHC 3534 (Fam) and E-R (Child Arrangements)  EWHC 805 (Fam) – and lectures regularly to solicitors. She was appointed to the EU Committee of Experts (one of 35) in 2006 to consider EU Family law jurisdictional rules. She is a Fellow of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and an accredited mediator. Clare is also a MENCAP volunteer with expertise in consent issues for people with learning disabilities. She is a Bencher of Lincolns Inn.
Diana Nammi is a campaigner and founder of the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) which provides advice and support to women who are at risk of ‘honour’ based violence and ‘honour’ killings, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, domestic violence and other form of gender violence. Diana has a long standing record for women’s rights, human rights and equality.
In 2003, Diana saw the need for an international organisation to fight for women’s rights and against “honour” crimes. In 2003, she founded the International Campaign against Honour Killings.
Diana’s work has received national and international recognition and since she had appeared in the media worldwide and provided presentations nationally and internationally. IKWRO won the ‘Rising Star award’ by the Lilith Project (Eaves Housing) for the Best New Voluntary Sector Organisation in 2006. Diana Nammi’s work was also recognized by Eve magazine who awarded her “the Eve Heroines honour” in December 2007. In 2012 Diana Nammi has been named on a list of 150 women who shake the world by Newsweek and The Daily Beast in “Women in the World Summit” – to honour women activists and the growing network of powerful women who support their efforts.
Dr Elaine McLaughlin
Dr McLaughlin is an active member of the Scottish Government’s Forced Marriage national network. She was involved in the preparatory stages and has a working knowledge of the Scottish legislation supporting victims of forced marriage.
In 2017, she completed her Ph.D. thesis entitled, ‘South Asian Women & Domestic Abuse in Scotland: an insecure immigration status and no recourse to public funds.’ The research involved examining the impact of immigration rules and no recourse to public funds upon women from a South Asian background who migrated to Scotland on a spouse visa, and whose marriage broke down as a consequence of domestic abuse.
Her ongoing research includes a project with Police Scotland which considers the interaction of domestically abused women from the minority ethnic community with the Police. Her contributions have been embraced by Police Scotland who have complied a video for public dissemination informing women of the assistance available to them.
Her further research interests principally remain the structural and social impact of violence against women from the minority ethnic community. Dr McLaughlin is an academic, who also works at the grassroots, dedicated to the protection of women from the minority ethnic community. She is employed with the Glasgow based organisation, Hemat Gryffe Women’s Aid, that works to provide advice and support to ethnic minority women, who are victims of violence and abuse.
Girijamba has a postgraduate diploma in Community Education and a degree in Economics. She has worked extensively with minority ethnic organisations, has worked with Shakti Women’s Aid for the past 23 years and is currently the Manager.
Girijamba previously worked for Fife Racial Equality Council as a bilingual Employment, Training and Education Advisor. She was involved with Fife Advocacy Project, the Citizens Advice Bureau and Fife Council consultation forums (1996/7) on community matters; Scottish Government’s National strategy to address domestic abuse (2000). She served as chair of Nari Kalyan Sango (now known Network Key Services Ltd), as Management Committee member of Saheliya and Board member of LINKnet mentoring service for black minority ethnic people. She is currently on the board of Scottish Women’s Convention, member of Safe Lives Advisory Group and Scottish Women’s Rights Centre Advisory Group.
She currently sits on the Scottish Government’s Forced Marriage Network Group and has been actively involved in drafting the Forced Marriage etc. (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act 2011 and Multi agency practice guidelines. She is an active member of the National No Recourse to Public Funds Campaign Group. She is also locally involved with Violence against Women Partnership, Edinburgh Multi-agency risk assessment conference and Cross-Party group - Men’s Violence against Women and Children.
Gita Sahgal is a writer and film-maker, and the founder of the Centre for Secular Space. She is a spokesperson for the One Law for All Campaign, and also works with the Council for Ex-Muslims. She is on the editorial collective of the journal Feminist Dissent. Gita has campaigned for many years, in the UK, and in India, against forced marriage, domestic violence, and other forms of violence against women, such as dowry deaths, sati, and the targeting of women for apostasy and blasphemy. She has made two films on forced marriage – ‘Tying the Knot’ for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and ‘Love Snatched’ on abductions for forced marriage, for a global project on ‘honour-based violence, run by SOAS and Interights. Her publications include,
Refusing Holy Orders, women and fundamentalism in Britain, co-edited with Nira Yuval Davis (Virago,1992). A critique of the state of human rights in 2010, was explored in a two-part conversation with Prof Deniz Kandiyoti, Soft Law, Hard Choices, and Custom and Conflict in the New World Order. She has made films for Bandung File Channel 4 on sati, dowry murders, and racial violence.
Gita is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society, she delivered the Bradlaugh Memorial Lecture on ‘The Rise of Hindu Nationalism’ in 2018.
Jasvinder Sanghera CBE
Jasvinder Sanghera is a survivor of forced marriage who founded Karma Nirvana, supporting people affected by honour-based abuse and forced marriages. She is the Independent Safeguarding Chair for Leeds Safeguarding Children Partnership and member of the Safeguarding Panel for the Church of England. She is an international speaker, advisor to courts and police and is a chair of domestic homicide reviews.
Her memoir ‘Shame’ was a Times Top 10 Bestseller, and Prime Minister David Cameron stated that her work ‘turned [his] head on the issue of forced marriage’.
She has received numerous awards including Woman of the Year (2007), The Pride of Britain Award (2009) and Cosmopolitan Ultimate Woman of the Year (2010). In 2011 she was listed in the Guardian's Top 100 Most Inspirational Women in the World and received the Global Punjabi Award 2012. She was awarded Commander of the British Empire in 2013 and Legal Campaigner of the Year in 2014. She was Leeds City Council Woman of the Year and was awarded the Robert Burns Humanitarian of the Year Award and the Sikh Woman of Substance Award in 2019.
She was made an Honorary Doctor of the University of Derby in 2008 and De Montfort University in 2018.
The Rt. Hon. Sir Mathew Thorpe
The Rt. Hon. Sir Mathew Thorpe is a former Lord Justice of Appeal (England and Wales), Vice-President of the Family Division and the inaugural Head of International Family Law. He remains the leading expert in the field of the international movement of children.
Sir Mathew proposed the creation of the International Hague Network of Judges in 1998 and successfully campaigned for its growth and development. He initiated the Germanophone/Anglophone Family Law Conference in 1997, Commonwealth/Common Law Family Law Conferences in 2000 and Francophone/Anglophone Conference in 2003. In 2010 he launched the Association of International Judges at the Brussels Conference. He chaired the Expert Group on the European Judicial Network which drafted and published the Best Practice Guide to Proceedings under the 1980 Hague Convention and Article II of Regulation Brussels II BiS.
Sir Mathew handed down the majority of leading judgments in family appeals 2000-2013. In 2011, Sir Mathew won the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers ‘Jurist of the Year’. Sir Mathew won the Cornwall Award for Outstanding Contribution 2013 at the Family Law Awards. He travelled widely as the judicial representative of the UK, directing the Office of International Family Justice in London (which handles approximately 250 international family justice referrals per year).
Dr Usama Hasan
(Imam Dr) Usama Hasan has written, published and broadcast widely on issues of Islamic theology and reform, and promoting pluralism, democracy and religious freedom. He has served as a part-time imam for over 35 years and has translated a number of Islamic texts from Arabic and Urdu into English.
He has also co-authored a book with Rabbi Prof. Dan Cohn-Sherbok & George Chryssides: People of the Book – How Jews, Christians & Muslims understand their sacred scriptures, Jessica Kingsley Publishers (2019).
Usama was Senior Lecturer at London Middlesex University (2003-12). He holds a PhD, MSc & MA in Physics and Artificial Intelligence from the Universities of Cambridge & London and is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and of the Muslim Institute.
Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui
Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui is a well-known Muslim activist, an expert on Islamic fundamentalism and Muslim political thought. A champion of female empowerment he campaigns against forced marriage, domestic violence and murder in the name of honour. Together with senior clerics, Dr Siddiqui launched a Muslim marriage contract to protect the rights of women. He is co-author of a report on and campaigns against child abuse within faith-based environments. Dr Siddiqui has promoted dialogue and engagement across all barriers: social, cultural and political. His biography, A Very British Muslim Activist: The Life of Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, was published in 2019.
Dr Nasreen Rehman (Cantab)
Nasreen is a lapsed economist who worked in the private and public sectors in the UK and Pakistan where she was Director of the Mahbub-ul-Haq Human Development Centre, Islamabad before she turned to the arts and humanities. A historian of emotions and aesthetics, she is an activist, an academic, and an award-winning screenplay writer, who believes in the power of the arts and activism to transform societies.
- She is Artistic Director of the Grand Trunk Road Company (GTR CO), a platform that connects people and ideas. She works with individuals and organisations across Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and the UK, who share GTR CO's commitment to global peace, human rights, and to a fight against gender-based violence, including violence against women and girls (VAWG), and for the rights of the LGBT and transgender communities.
- In 2005, Nasreen felt a need for secular Muslim voices to be heard in the UK. She invited her friend, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to join her in forming British Muslims for Secular Democracy. Together, they invited several like-minded people to join them. She was Chair from 2009-2015 and thought it time to step down as the organisation completed a decade.
- She served on the Commissions on Anti-Semitism (1994) and Islamophobia (1997), as a Trustee of the Runneymede Trust.
Nasreen was Vice-Chair of the Commission; she was appointed Director in September 2020.
Champion For Choice
Payzee Mahmod is a survivor of FGM, child marriage, and a forced marriage, who lost her sister Banaz in a tragic “honour” killing, Payzee’s focus to prevent “honour” based abuse and child marriage could not be more personal.
A Kurdish immigrant, raised in London, with a successful career in the fashion industry, she uses her voice to speak out as a survivor – not a victim – and has made it her mission to be a changemaker, helping to tackle these harmful practices.
As an IKWRO ambassador and campaigner, she’s reached international audiences. She has spoken widely on the need for changes to the laws surrounding child marriage and so-called “honour” based abuse in her TEDX talk, across radio, television, and newspapers, including The Sunday Times and the BBC.
Through speeches at Parliament and meeting with government officials and the Home Office Minister to explain first-hand why change is needed, Payzee campaigns for better education, training, and legislation to finally make child marriage a crime.
Charlotte McDonald was Research Officer at NCFM and has moved on to further her career as a lawyer. We wish her all the best for the future, and appreciate her continued interest in the work of the Commission. Watch this space for the new member of our team.
Mariam Faruqi is the South Asia Regional Director at iProbono, a legal NGO.
She previously practiced immigration law in the UK and has worked at Bindmans LLP in London where she qualified and trained in Public Law & Human Rights. In 2010, Mariam went to work in at the Jinnah Institute in Pakistan as a Senior Research Analyst, where she worked on the status of religious minorities, the blasphemy law and labour rights in Pakistan. Her work on status of minorities, ‘A Question of Faith: the status of religious minorities in Pakistan’, covered the forced marriage and conversion of Christian and Hindu women in Pakistan. It is referenced by the Home Office in their country guidance.
Mariam holds an LLM from the School of Oriental and African Studies with distinction and is currently working on a book on judicial review and human rights in Pakistan. She is also the Secretary of The Grand Trunk Road Company, an initiative that seeks to build bridges across cultures.
Ian Ellis is an IT, Design and Brand Manager and has freelanced as a web and graphic designer for 20 years
He has worked for and with organisations including the NHS, The Standards Board for England, BP & Hygiene Systems. He has worked with Nasreen on various projects for over 15 years.