According to "A choice by Right" the report of the working group on forced marriage published by the Home Office in 2000 - a Forced marriage "(FM)" is a marriage conducted without the valid consent of both parties, where some element of duress is a factor. This is different from an arranged marriage, which is a respected tradition in many cultures.
WHY DO FORCED MARRIAGES HAPPEN
o To control unwanted behaviour and sexuality ("corrective" FM for gay men or lesbians)
o Peer group/family pressure
o To protect a perceived cultural or religious ideal
o As an attempt to strengthen family links
o To provide a carer for a disabled person
o To assist claims for residence/citizenship
o To ensure that the land remain in a certain family group
The main challenge when dealing with FM is to understand the risk of family mediation. Family mediation may increase the risk to the victims rather than help them.
LEGAL OVERVIEW IN THE UK
In 2005 a consultation took place on whether or not to introduce a specific criminal offence for FM. In the end it was decided not to treat FM as a criminal offence. Other crimes generally accompany FM such as kidnapping, rape, assault, murder. However the main reason not to treat FM as a criminal offence is to facilitate report as it was feared that by treating FM as a criminal offence the number of reports would lower even more.
HISTORY OF THE FORCED MARRIAGE UNIT (FMU)
The Unit was established in 2005 and has three main areas of work:
1. Developing of policies
2. Raising awareness
3. Case work (domestic and consular)
The Unit has two Heads of Unit (one for the Foreign Office group set up in 1999 and which deals with cases abroad, and one for the Home Office group formed in 2000 which deals with cases in the UK).
Their lines are open Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm (020 7008 0151). They also have an out-of-hours emergency number (020 7008 1500). In addition to this emails and text messages can be used used to communicate directly with victims.
Callers are generally the victims themselves or their friends but professionals can also call for advice or on behalf of a victim is this is requested.
The FMU works with agencies to support them and to help develop safety plans for the victim. If the victim is decides to leave for safety, it is recommended that she/he is relocated as far as possible from their original location and that they immediately inform the Police of their situation in case the victim's family reports her/him missing.
WHO IS AFFECTED
Between January 2009 and September 2010 the FMU received 1241 calls. 87% of callers were female and 13% were male.
The majority of cases reported to the FMU come from Pakistan Bangladesh and India. However cases have also been reported from Cyprus, Jordan, Sri Lanka, Somalia and several European countries.
To learn more on Forced Marriage Unit click here