The Government describes Forced Marriage as:
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. It is an appalling and indefensible practice and is recognised in the UK as a form of violence against women and men, domestic/child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.
School holidays are a peak time for young people to be taken overseas and forced into marriage against their will.
The Force Marriage Unit Statistics from 2017 show they provided support to:
- 371 cases (26%) involved victims below 18 years of age
- 497 cases (34%) involved victims aged 18-25.
In 2016, the majority of cases 1,145 (80%) involved women victims, while 283 cases (20%) involved male victims.
This isn’t a London, Manchester, Birmingham problem, it is happening right here on our doorstep, in Suffolk.
What is Forced Marriage?
This is when a person faces physical pressure to marry (threats, physical violence or sexual violence) or emotional and psychological pressure (made to feel like you’re bringing shame on the family). Forced marriage also has links to other forms of abuse such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Honour Based Violence (HBV). These are crimes or incidents, which have or might have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and/or community.
A person has the right to choose who they marry, when they marry, or if they marry at all. Victims of forced marriage commented:
“I didn’t want to get married, but felt pressure from my family”
“My mum said her health wasn’t good and she wanted to see me married – so I did it!”
“Don’t want to get married, but I’ll do it anyway, that is what my family want and its part of my culture & tradition”
“I want to marry my boyfriend/girlfriend, not one of my cousins or a stranger”
Television feature on Forced Marriage
A film by BBC Look East reporter, Mariam Issimdar shows her talking to one woman who went into hiding to escape being forced into marriage, and who is still in hiding after 7 years. Mariam also interviewed Aneeta Prem from Freedom Charity and Bal Howard who is the former lead for Suffolk Police on Forced Marriage and Honour Based Violence for Suffolk Police, whilst they were visiting a School in Bury St Edmunds to deliver forced marriage awareness sessions to young people at the school.
The film quoted that number of recorded forced marriage cases in East Anglia appears to be rising according to new government figures. Nationally in 2012 there were 1485 forced marriages cases, of which 29 were investigated in the region. However in 2013 the national figure decreased to 1302, but the numbers in the East rose to 45.
Bal Howard mentioned in the interview that the increase in the East could possibly be due to the amount of work carried out in the East which may have led to increased reporting. Of the 50 cases Bal investigated, 50% were concerning forced marriage and 30% of those cases the victim was under 18. Several of these cases have shown that it is sometimes a young male adult or brother, rather than the parents, that’s involved in forcing marriages.
Bal also talked about the seriousness of this issue (which in many cases is child abuse), many would have led to rape, and in extreme cases murder. “This could be the tip of the iceberg and fears that the true numbers are in the thousands.”
Guidance for local authorities and relevant third parties:
- Suffolk Police has general awareness information and support details
- Multi-Agency Statutory Guidance for dealing with forced marriage
- Gov Guidance for local authorities on applying for forced marriage protection orders (FMPOs) and information for other agencies.
- Forced marriage awareness posters are available in 10 different language posters.
What should teachers look out for?
Who hasn’t come back to school after the holidays?
The loud boy/girl in the class, what’s happened to them, why have they gone quiet? Is a pupil in your school missing from education? Where are they? What happened to them?
Did they say that grandparents were ill? Or did they say it was a cousins wedding? Or did they say it was a cultural visit?
Is there is a drop in their performance and motivation or unexplained health problems (could possibly be a sign of child abuse).
Other signs could be that they are not allowed to do after school activities, not allowed westernised clothes/make-up/friends, terminology used by the young person like “I had an arranged marriage, I chose to go through with it”.
The young person may also start to truant from school (their only bit of freedom) and if you suspect this could be a result of force marriage, or any other kind of abuse, DO NOT send a letter home to the parents, this might put the young person at greater risk. The young person may also stop taking part in physical education, always being brought and taken from school by a family member. Someone may be watching them (like their siblings or cousins) during school time or they could be in a “secret relationship” which they have to hide from family members. They may also own a ‘secret’ mobile phone.
In Suffolk if teachers and support staff suspect there could be a case of potential Forced Marriage then follow the Suffolk Local Safeguarding Children Board Procedures. More information is available from Suffolk Safeguarding Children Board.
A child at risk of forced marriage may also be at risk of honour based violence. Extreme caution should be taken in sharing information especially if honour based violence is suspected.
If you have concerns that a child is at risk contact a Social Care Manager at Children & Young Peoples Services via:
Office Hours call Customer First 0808 800 4005
Out of Hours Emergency Duty Service 0808 800 4005
Suffolk Constabulary Force Operations 01473 613500 (24hrs)
In an Emergency always call 999
If you have concerns that an adult is at risk contact Adult and Community Services:
Office hours call Customer First 0808 800 4005
Out of Hours Emergency Duty Service 01473 299669
Suffolk Constabulary Force Operations Room 01473 613500 (24hrs)
In an Emergency always call 999
What should I do if I have concerns?
Everyone has the right to choose who they marry and when they get married. If you are worried about a friend, relative or young person that you work with, here are 10 signs to watch out for:
If you or someone you know are thinking about or are taking the brave decision to leave a forced marriage, this Survivor’s Handbook will give you useful and practical information to help you take control of your life and focus on the future.
General Advice and Information:
If you, or someone you know, would like to speak to someone about forced marriage or female genital mutilation, then you can contact Suffolk Police on 101 or one of the organisations below.
IN AN EMERGENCY ALWAYS CALL 999
There are various organisations providing a network of domestic abuse support and advice in Suffolk. There are also other organisations around the UK providing information, detailed below:
Details of National Support Groups:
They have one clear aim: to stop the scandal of forced marriage and honour-based violence.
No apologies. No excuses. No backing down. Honour Network Helpline 0800 599 9247
Celebrates the UK‘s cultural diversity and all the traditions that these bring – but it makes a clear distinction between an arranged marriage and a forced marriage.
Call 0845 607 0133 or text “4freedom” 88802
ChildLine is a private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of nineteen. You can contact a ChildLine counsellor about anything
No problem is too big or too small. Call free on 0800 1111
Southall Black Sisters
A not-for-profit organisation set up in 1979 to meet the needs of black (Asian and African-Caribbean) and minority ethnic women.
Helpline 0208 571 0800 General Enquiries 0208 571 9595
The Kiran Project
A project set up in 1990 to meet the needs of women from the Indian sub-continent experiencing domestic violence.
Telephone 0208 558 1986
Forced Marriage Unit
The Government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU). Contact them if you’re trying to stop a forced marriage or you need help leaving a marriage you’ve been forced into. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: 020 7008 0151 From overseas: +44 (0)20 7008 0151
Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm Out of hours: 020 7008 1500 (ask for the Global Response Centre)