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UK Pushes Charges After Just Three Percent of Forced Marriage Reports

Forced Child Marriage
GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty
LIAM DEACON

UK police pushed charges after less than one in 38 forced marriage reports, with just three convictions in the four years since it was made illegal in the UK.

Officials at the Home Office received more than 3,800 reports of forced marriages, or children and young people at risk of being forced into marriage, over the past three years, The Times reports.

However, less than 80 suspects were charged in this time and just three have been convicted of the crime, leading to campaigners accusing authorities of political correctness and turning a blind eye.

The victims are often vulnerable, with the vast majority female and around 30 percent of them last year being younger than 18 – and 15 percent under 15 years old.

The revelation is just the latest in a series from The Times, following a week of publishing investigations into forced marriages in the UK, prompting Home Secretary Sajid Javid to launch an instigation into failings.

The paper surveyed different police forces and estimates that charges are brought in roughly three percent of cases. Some forces, however, have done better than others.

In Lancashire, there have been 259 police investigations linked to forced marriages in three years, with more than 50 of the alleged victims under 16, but no charges brought.

In London, the Metropolitan Police has recorded 260 offences over three years and 26 charges. Yet, the majority were assault charges, and not a single one was for the specific crime of forced marriage. Two victims were under ten years old.

Usha Sood, a barrister and expert on forced marriage, commented: “The distinction between an arranged and forced marriage seems to fox the authorities but there should be no dilemma about it.

“It’s about pulling the veil away from the idea that this is arranged and saying no, this is forced.”

Jasvinder Sanghera, the founder of Karma Nirvana, which supports victims of forced marriage, said: “We’ve got a number of professionals who are turning a blind eye. They don’t want to rock the multicultural boat.”

Detective Chief Inspector Joanne McHugh, of Lancashire Police, pushed back at claims of inactivity, appearing to blame the families and culture of victims.

“Many of the reports recorded as forced marriage incident are found not to be of that nature, albeit the person reporting had genuine concern. Potential victims are often unwilling to support a prosecution against a family member.”

The Metropolitan Police spokesman made similar arguments, adding: “Our fundamental aims are always to preserve life, protect those at risk and seek to bring perpetrators to justice.”

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