Published: 28th May 2019
The Force Marriage Unit (FMU) have revealed that the number of cases which required their advice or support has risen by 47% in 2018 when compared to the previous year.
The FMU, which is a collaboration between the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to enforce the government's forced marriage policy, reported 1,764 forced marriage cases throughout 2018, 568 more cases than in 2017.
The Home Office believe that the large increase doesn't necessarily represent a spike in the number of forced marriages overall, but rather an increase in media coverage and high-profile cases which has helped to raise greater awareness of the criminal nature of forced marriages.
The information provided in the report was based on the number of cases recorded by the FMU via their public helpline and support email address throughout the whole of 2018. They received an average of 340 phone calls per month during 2018, however the report indicated that these figures also include repeat calls from ongoing cases and other non-relevant enquiries relating to things like sham marriages, domestic abuse, annulments and divorce. Victims of forced marriages accounted for around 20% of the phone calls, which the report said reflected the hidden nature of forced marriage.
The report highlighted that London was the UK region with the highest number of cases recorded, with 18% of cases (318 cases), followed by the North-West with 14% of cases (254 cases).
Pakistan was the country with the highest number of reported cases, with 44% of cases (769 cases), followed by Bangladesh with 9% of cases (157 cases). 7% of all cases took place solely in the UK, with no overseas or international involvement.
The report did stress however that forced marriages aren't a problem specific to one culture or country, with the FMU handling cases across 110 countries including North America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia since 2011.
In regards to age and gender, the report also revealed that 18% of cases involved children under the age of 15, 33% involved victims 18 and under and 30% involved victims aged between 18 and 25. 75% of all cases involved women and 17% involved men, with the remaining 8% relating to cases where the gender was unknown.
More information on protecting and supporting victims of forced marriage can be found on the Gov.uk website here. The FMU recognises a forced marriage in circumstances where one or both parties do not consent to the marriage and where pressure or abuse is used to force them to do so. It is recognised in the UK as a form of domestic abuse and coercive control and is a criminal offence. If you or anyone you know is a victim of forced marriage, please contact the FMU Helpline on 020 7008 0151 or email email@example.com.
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