‘Tip of the Iceberg’: UK Records 1,428 Forced Marriage Victims in 2016

Forced marriage
AP Photo/Sunday Alamba

Britain’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) recorded over 1,400 victims in 2016, up from 1,200 the previous year.

The Cyprus Mail reports that Pakistan accounted for 612 of the cases logged by the FMU, Bangladesh 121, India 79, Somalia 47, Afghanistan 39, and Saudi Arabia 16. Most forced marriages were conducted abroad with “only” 157 potential or actual forced marriages taking place in the Britain.

“When you get figures like this, the first reaction is, ‘this is absolutely horrendous’,” commented Aneeta Prem, founder of the Freedom Charity. “But the positive thing is people feel that they’re able to report it.”

However, Jasvinder Sanghera, who heads the forced marriage survivors charity Karma Nirvana, believes the crime still goes largely unreported.

“The victims are extremely isolated and the people who are abusing them are their nearest and dearest – family members. So you can imagine how difficult it is to report it in that environment,” she said.

“We’re all dealing with the tip of the iceberg because [forced marriage] is completely under-reported and we have got a lot to do.”

Naz Shah, a Labour MP briefly suspended from her party for online anti-semitism, asked the Attorney-General’s Office how many prosecutions there had been for forced marriage in 2014-15 last year.

Attorney-General Jeremy Wright MP told the Bradford West representative that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had mounted one prosecution in relation to forced marriage, two prosecutions in relation to breaches of forced marriage protection orders, and 45 prosecutions for offences associated with forced marriages.

The number of convictions was not disclosed, but a modest success rate of 63 per cent had been claimed for the previous year, 2013-14, by Karen Bradley MP, the then-Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime.

So few forced marriage cases reach the courts that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was prompted to run an article titled “Why are there so few forced marriage prosecutions?” in June 2015.

Nazir Afzal, former head of the North-West Crown Prosecution Service, told the taxpayer-funded broadcaster that “one of the major things stopping victims coming forward is the codes of silence that exist in the family”.

Afzal likened the culture within communities where forced marriage is common to organised crime, explaining that “it’s like the mafia. You cover up, as you are so scared of the consequences.”

The BBC reported 11,744 so-called “honour crimes” in the UK between 2010 and 2014, with campaigners claiming far more likely going unrecorded.

The Halo Project estimates these crimes include an annual 12-15 honour-related killings, again noting that the true figure could be far higher.

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery


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