Immigration policy on forced marriage is unlawful

Landmark Supreme Court Ruling: Immigration policy on forced marriage is unlawful

Southall Black Sisters welcomes the judgment in the Quila and Bibi* case. The Supreme Court has stated that the government’s ban on non-EU spouses under the age of 21 from entering the UK, is an unlawful interference on a couple’s right to respect for private and family life.

SBS intervened in the case to argue that the age policy is a disproportionate and discriminatory response to the problem of forced marriage. We stated that it would discriminate against many couples who have genuine marriages by keeping them apart, and more importantly, that it will not solve the problem of forced marriage but merely drive it underground. The Supreme Court has endorsed our view that the Secretary of State’s age policy, far from being an effective deterrent, is an unjustifiable, unfair and disproportionate response to the problem of forced marriage.

Our main concern is that the government is consistently linking forced marriage to the imperatives of immigration control when there is no evidence to show that in the vast majority of cases, forced marriage and gaining entry to the UK are linked. The main motivating factors behind forced marriages are complex and it cannot be used to impose immigration controls that have unlawful, discriminatory outcomes for many genuine cases. Forced marriage is largely about the need to control (female) sexuality, protecting cultural and religious norms including family honour, and strengthening family ties.

SBS states:

“We believe that the issue of immigration control and forced marriage must be de-linked. There are other, more effective ways of addressing the problem, for example providing funding for specialist organisations, undertaking preventative work in schools, improving access to education and supporting those who are trying to tackle the root causes of forced marriage from within their communities. This judgment makes it clear that the link between forced marriage and entry to the UK has not been clearly established. We therefore urge the government to think again about using the issue of forced marriage to justify its latest unnecessary and discriminatory proposals on family-related migration. Forced marriage is a serious issue but it should not be used in a cynical way to create a moral panic to justify the government’s immigration agenda.”

Contact: Tel: 0208 571 9595 or email us for more information.

For the full judgment see:

12 Oct 2011 [2011] UKSC 45 UKSC 2011/0024 R (on the application of Bibi and another) (FC) (Respondents) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Appellant)
Press summary

12 Oct 2011 [2011] UKSC 45 UKSC 2011/0022 R (on the application of Quila and another) (FC) (Respondents) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Appellant)
Press summary

Note: SBS acknowledge pro bono support from Anne-Marie Hutchinson, Dawson Cornwell Solicitors, and Henry Setright QC and Michael Gration of Chambers of Jonathan Cohen QC, 4 Paper Building.


  1. i thought my paryers were answered when the age limit went up but then it all shattered when it was bought back down. its the younger generation that you should be thinking about because sometimes being a girl or a guy our hands be tied and we dont know what to do the government is meant proctect its people not make them suffer

    • We agree that there needs to be greater awareness with regards to this issue with younger people and it’s for this reason that SBS has campaigned long and hard against forced marriage which culminated in the creation of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act. We have also campaigned for the government to fund adequate shelters and support services for women who are abused and forced into marriage: they are vanishing at alarming rate due to the government’s spending cuts. We are also engaged in long term work in schools to raise the issues. The Quila and Bibi case, however, highlights significant problems faced by genuine couples under the age of 21 who wish to live together. The age limit on marriageable age of 21 was unlawful and highly discriminatory and violated the fundamental right of married couples to live together.

  2. we all need to make sure that this awareness is spreaded world wide i live in high wycombe and here us asain girls dont have a clue in what to do and who to go to for help so please due ant event in our area so that us asain girls know what to do.