How prevalent is forced marriage in the UK?

On the day of the first Girl Summit, which aims to tackle forced marriages around the world, we look at the latest data on how many people it affects in the UK

World leaders and charities are gathering for the first Girl Summit, which aims to mobilise efforts to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM). They’re both issues which affect women living in the UK as well as millions around the world.

CEFM was made illegal in the UK last month so we are not sure of the effect of the new legislation, but we are be able to give a glimpse into how prevalent it was in this country before.

What is forced marriage?

Forced marriage is defined as where one or both parties do not consent to the marriage and pressure is used to make them. This pressure can take many forms, from financial pressure, emotional blackmail or psychological pressure, and threats of or actual physical or sexual violence. It’s recognised in the UK as a form of violence against women and men, domestic abuse, child abuse, and an abuse of human rights.

Tackling a big problem

In 2005, the Forced Marriage Unit was set up as a body between the Home Office and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, with the aim of providing support and advice to victims of Forced Marriage. The FMU has to date only published statistics relating to 2012 and 2013.

In 2012, the FMU had to give advice or support related to possible forced marriages in 1,485 cases. Last year, that number had dropped to 1,302. The FMU obviously will not deal with every case of forced marriage in the country, just those it has been made aware of so the true scale of the issue is unclear.

What do we know about the victims?

More women than men were helped by the FMU. In both years, 82% of the victims were female, and 18% were male.

More than half of the victims that the FMU dealt with were under 21, with one in eight under the age of 16 – below the legal age of consent for marriage in the UK. Around a third of the victims were between 18 and 21.
A link to the article can be found here.