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” (Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home. 2013). A forced marriage is a practice recognised in the UK as violence against women and an abuse of human rights. A forced marriage is not an arranged marriage as an individual can choice to say no to an arranged marriage. The difference between a force and an arrange marriage is duress. Duress is threats of violence used to coerce an individual into doing something against their will. Some individuals may not be aware they are in a forced marriage as they may have been nurtured and groomed to believe this is right and lawful from childhood. The lack of knowledge and insight to consent as a child means individuals are often left with no choice in the matter.
In 2015, 1220 forced marriages were reported in the UK alone. 27% of the reported practices were victims under the age of 18, 35% were victims between the ages of 18 and 25. 539 marriages reported were from the Pakistan community, 89 from the Bangladeshi community, 75 from the Indian community, 34 from the Somalian community and 21 from the Afghanistan community. (Home Office, Forced Marriage Unit Statistics 2015. 2016)
It’s often assumed that forced marriages are only prevalent within the Asian community as it is a cultural practice. Subsequently other communities such as traveling communities and white affluent communities also adopt these practices. These communities often promote forced marriages due to status and sustaining family names. It has to be acknowledged that forced marriages is not an Asian problem and happens within other communities perhaps through a different perspective.
Reasons for parental motivation towards forced marriages include financial gain, status, honour, social and material benefits. In 2014 BBC reported that, strengthening family links, claims of citizenship, protecting cultural and religious ideals, controlling unwanted behaviour and sexuality with people outside specific ethnic caste are some reasons for coercing other into matrimony. Some parents believe that they know what is best for their child and feel that they are responsible for saving their child from western influences. Other parents may be in forced marriages themselves and may not see the fault with it.
Although some families are aware of the implications and emotional distress it causes on loved ones, they may not challenge such practices due to pre-made plans and treats to kill from other families and their communities.
A forced marriage can have a detrimental impact on a person’s well-being. Isolation, depression, self-harming, truancy, suicide and homicide are all signs and impact reported by victims of forced marriages (ProtectingChildren). Victims of forced marriages may not be aware of the support, resources or legal rights they have in regards to this matter.
The Children Act 1989, The Children Abduction Act 1984, The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 and Section 39 of The Criminal Justice Act 1985 all support the right of choice and the right to be free from abuse, threats and violence.
It is an offence and a breach of human rights to force a person to get married against their will or without consent. If convicted of this offence, an individual can be imprisoned for up to 7 years (also applies to overseas).
The Force Marriage Unit (FMU) is a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office unit founded in January 2005 to assist with outreach, caseworks and with leading the Government’s policy on forced marriages (Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home. 2013). Its helpline (44 (0) 20 7008 0151. Email: email@example.com) provides safety advice in regards to reluctant sponsors and in some cases recuse, victims held overseas against their will. This Unit carries out Media campaigns and produces short films to raise awareness amongst children and young people at risk of forced marriages.
Raising awareness on this matter within our communities is essential to the well-being and safety of our people. Forced marriages within our community is a topic area that is hidden due to the sensitivity of it and the fear of intruding in peoples personal lives. Nevertheless, this fear should not encourage this practice as a forced marriage does not only constitute a breach of human rights but also a life time commitment of possible abuse and violence.
References and Further Reading