3,000 women a year forced into marriage in UK, study finds
by Jo Revill and Anushka Asthana
At least 3,000 young women in Britain are the victims of forced marriages each year, with the scale of the problem far bigger than originally thought, according to a groundbreaking report out this week.
The first study ever conducted in the UK into the prevalence of the custom shows that there are far more victims, spread across different ethnic minority communities, than official figures suggest.
Teachers should be given a key role in talking confidentially to young girls whom they believe may be at risk of being coerced into marriages, particularly if there is suspicion that an older sister has been married off against her will, the report recommends.
But there also needs to be more determined effort within communities to end the practice, so that forced marriages become a matter of shame and humiliation for parents, instead of being a matter of pride.
The Home Office-funded study calls on authorities to take the institution more seriously, so that it is treated as an issue of illegality, domestic violence and bullying.
The study, which looked at cases in Luton, a town with a large south Asian community, found at least 300 cases where victims had contacted community organisations. Yet the government's forced marriage unit, set up to tackle the problem three years ago, handles only 300 cases a year nationwide.
The report concludes that at least 10 times that number, and possibly far more that, are taking place, without any agencies ever finding out, although forced marriages are illegal under British law.
The government has ordered a national count of missing schoolgirls amid fears that hundreds have been forced into marriage, or are living in fear of so-called "honour" violence.
Researcher Nazia Khanum, who carried out the study, said: "There is this wall of silence around forced marriages."
"Of course, there are thousands of arranged marriages happening in Britain each year but that is very different, as both partners in these are willing participants."
"We are talking about girls being very much coerced into those marriages, often not knowing beforehand who their husbands will be, and then having little or no rights once they are married. Most of them feel there is simply no one they can turn to."
Forced marriage 'morally and legally wrong' - Church of England
by Daniel Blake
Forced marriage is "morally and legally wrong", the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council said on Monday in response to a Home Office consultation on ‘marriage to partners from overseas’.
A Home Office-funded study published this week revealed that forced marriages are far more widespread in the UK than official figures suggest. The study, which looked only at Luton, found that local community organisations were dealing with 300 forced marriage cases, far exceeding the findings of a previous study which stated that the Government’s forced marriage unit responds to 300 cases a year across the whole of the UK.
The Rt Rev Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark, said, “The practice of forcing one of the partners to marry in order to be able to sponsor a marriage visa and gain immigration advantage cannot be justified and is to be strongly condemned,” said the bishop.
“We support policy that is most likely to give protection to those who most need it.”
The Church of England voiced its support for the study’s recommendation to raise the minimum age that someone may sponsor a marriage partner from abroad or be sponsored as a spouse to 21 years.
The study also raised concerns that the substantial number of children disappearing from school registers each year is down to forced marriages.
Bishop Butler stressed that the idea of personal consent was key to the Christian understandings of marriage.
"The Christian description of marriage as a voluntary union for life between one woman and one man, to the exclusion of all others, has its roots in the early biblical stories in Genesis," he said.
1) 3,000 women a year forced into marriage in UK, study finds
2) Forced marriage 'morally and legally wrong' - Church of England