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Forced Marriage

What is a forced marriage?

Forced marriages are typically carried out in strict patriarchal communities and families, with the threat of violence or emotional blackmail used as a means of coercion. They can be used as as a mean of controlling sexuality and freedom of expression, and to strengthen alliances between or within families.

During workshops held by KMEWO to discuss forced marriage, female participants from Kurdish and Middle Eastern backgrounds reported that they are keen to retain links with their birth countries to ensure that their children were familiar with their families and cultural backgrounds.

They also expressed a desire to see their children married to someone from ‘back home’. Some women said that they could never accept their daughter or son having a relationship with someone outside of their community.  In terms of marriage, women reported that their children’s partners should be from a similar religious and cultural background. There is a clear link between forced marriage and other forms of violence; it is worth noting that both Heshu and Banaz who victims of horrific honour-killing in recent years were also victims of forced marriage.

Prevalence of forced marriage:

In 2008, The Guardian reported that ‘the number of women who have become victims of forced marriages in the UK has been largely overlooked. Government figures had previously suggested a rate of around 300 forced marriages per year, but the study, which focuses on Luton, suggests the true figure could be almost 4,000.

“This report is living proof that the government’s figures on forced marriage are woefully inadequate,” said Margaret Moran, a member of the Commons home affairs select committee, which is investigating forced marriages and domestic violence. “If you multiply the statistics up and down the country, we’re talking about 3-4,000 cases per year rather than 300.”

The Forced Marriage Unit

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) works to prevent British nationals being forced into marriage overseas.

If you are worried about yourself or someone else who may be affected you can contact them on:  020 7008 0151 / 0044 20 7008 0151 (overseas)

They’ll need to talk to you on the phone to work out a plan of action. Their caseworkers deal with around 400 cases a year and are fully trained to deal with the emotional, cultural and social issues surrounding forced marriage.

Anything you tell them will be treated with complete confidentiality.

The FMU have trained professionals who offer confidential advice and assistance to those who:

  • have been forced into marriage overseas
  • are at risk of being forced into marriage
  • or people worried about friends or relatives.

Did you know?`

  • The FMU deals with around 400 cases a year
  • One-third of victims are under 18
  • 15% of victims are men
  • They have six full-time staff in London who work with our consular staff around the world
  • Whilst most of the cases are in Pakistan and Bangladesh, they also deal with cases in unexpected locations like Ireland and Norway
  • They can also help people in the UK – you don’t need to be overseas to contact them
  • If you are a victim of forced marriage FMU can try and stop your spouse getting a visa to come to the UK.

The Home Office and Forced Marriage Unit’s (FMU) have published an information booklet on ‘What is a forced marriage?’ and also a booklet aimed at Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Trans-gendered individuals at risk of forced marriage.

In an emergency:

Call KMEWO on 020 7263 1027 or 07748 851 125

Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) 020 7008 0151 (or 0044 20 7008 0151 if you are overseas)

Call the Police on 999.

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