What is a Forced Marriage?
A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used. The practice is recognised in the UK as a form of violence against women and men, domestic/child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.
The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be physical (including threats, actual physical violence and sexual violence) or emotional and psychological (for example, when someone is made to feel like they’re bringing shame on their family). Financial abuse (taking your wages or not giving you any money) can also be a factor.
Why do Forced Marriages happen?
- To control unwanted behaviour and sexuality, and prevent ‘unsuitable’ relationships, i.e. with people outside their ethnic, cultural, caste or religious group
- To protect perceived cultural or religious ideals
- Family ‘honour’ or long-standing family commitments
- Peer group or family pressure
- To ensure land, property and wealth remain in the family
- To strengthen family links
- To assist claims for residence and citizenship
- To provide a carer for a disabled family member / reduce the ‘stigma’ of disability
Some young people are tricked into visiting their family’s country of origin for a holiday, only to find that there are plans to get them married there. They may be isolated, have no access to money, telephones or their passports, and their movement will be restricted. Even though they are abroad, victims still have the right to legal protection as the people forcing them into marriage may be in breach of the law in the UK and other countries.
Similarly some young people may have no idea that they are at risk of having a forced marriage, and when visiting their home countries they are faced with this.
How to protect yourself
If you are being taken abroad against your will:
- In an emergency do not hesitate to contact the police on 999. Being taken abroad against your will is illegal and can be prevented
If you are unable to contact authorities before you leave them do the following:
- Gather some foreign currency with you, enough to pay for emergency phone calls, taxis, food or hotels
- Find a mobile phone that works overseas, take it with you and keep it hidden
- Obtain the contact details for the nearest British Embassy in the area you are travelling to
Additionally, obtain the following information. Keep this information stored with you at all times and send a copy to IKWRO or the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU):
- Name, date of birth and parents’ names
- Passport and tickets photocopied (email yourself a copy of both)
- Overseas contact details and address of where you will be staying
- Who you are travelling with, and family members staying in the UK
- UK address and telephone number
- A recent photograph
- Contact details of someone you trust in the UK
- Departure and expected return dates
Do not share this information with people around you if you suspect a forced marriage. Their beliefs and family loyalty may make them difficult to trust.
Forced, Child and Early Marriage around the world:
Child and Early marriage is the marriage of girls and boys under the age of 18 – when they are still children. This is a form of Forced Marriage; which is a broader term that covers the forced marriage of all people irrespective of their age. Child marriage is a form of forced marriage as children below the age of 18 aren’t able to provide informed consent and in many cases may be forced, coerced or pressured by their guardians to go through with the marriage.
Every year, approximately 14 million girls are married before they turn 18, across countries, cultures and religions. Robbed of their childhood, denied their rights to health, education and security.
That is around:
- 1,166,666 girls a month
- 269,230 a week
- 38,461 a day
- 27 every minute
- Or one girl every two seconds
Forced Marriage in the UK:
2012 statistics from the Forced Marriage Unit
- The FMU gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1485 cases.
- Where the age was known, 13% involved victims below 15 years, 22% involved victims aged 16-17, 30% involved victims aged 18-21, 19% involved victims aged 22-25, 8% involved victims aged 26-30, 8% involved victims aged 31+. The oldest victim was 71 and the youngest was 2.
- 82% involved female victims and 18% involved male victims.
- The FMU handled cases involving 60 different countries, including Pakistan (47.1%), Bangladesh (11%), India (8%), Afghanistan (2.1%), Somalia (1.2%), Turkey (1.1%), Iraq (1%), Iran (0.9%), Nigeria (0.9%), Sri Lanka (0.9%), Egypt (0.6%), Saudi Arabia (0.6%), Yemen (0.6%), The Gambia (0.5%), Morocco (0.5%), and Ukraine (0.5%). The origin was unknown in 7.7% of cases.
- Within the UK the regional distribution was: East Anglia 2%, East Midlands 3%, London 21%, North East 1%, North West 8%, Northern Ireland 0.2%, Scotland 1%, South East 11%, South West 2%, West Midlands 16%, Wales 1%, Yorkshire and Humberside 7%. The region was unknown in 27% of cases.
- 114 cases involved victims with disabilities.
- 22 involved victims who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT)
Laws on Forced Marriage
Forced marriage is not yet a criminal offence, however IKWRO have been campaigning tirelessly to criminalise it. The bill for the criminalisation of forced marriage has passed through both houses of Parliament and is in its final stages. It is believed that this law will come into play in May 2014. However there is a Forced Marriage Protection Order in place at the moment
Forced Marriage Protection Order
A Forced Marriage Protection Order is issued by a court and can be applied for by the victim or person to be protected in person or with legal representation. It can also be applied for by someone on their behalf with permission of the court, this could be the police, voluntary sector support service, a friend or family member.
Each order is unique, and is designed to protect according to individual circumstances. For example, the court may order someone to hand over a passport to prevent them from being taken abroad for the forced marriage or they can order to reveal where somebody is. In an emergency, an order can be made to protect you immediately. Disobeying a Forced Marriage Protection Order can result in a sentence of up to 2 years in prison.
In Scotland they currently also have the Forced Marriage Protection Order but they are a step ahead as the breach of the order is a criminal offence