Tulip Mazumdar, who works for BBC’s Newsbeat, reports on last year’s forced marriage statistics:
According to new figures seen by Newsbeat, there were 1,735 incidents of potential or actual cases involving British nationals reported to the forced marriage unit (FMU) in 2010. More than half of the cases dealt with last year by the government’s forced marriage unit were related to Pakistan. Meanwhile, almost a third involved people under the age of 18.
There has been criticism of the government and state for not doing enough to combat forced marriages:
The victim went to a predominantly Asian school but says she was never made aware of any help available to people like her. Every school secondary in England and Wales is supposed to be sent statutory guidelines, which they should implement. A member of staff must be put in charge of raising awareness of the issue in schools and looking out for signs of potential forced marriage. But there are concerns that this isn’t happening. Jasvinder Sanghera, from the forced marriage charity Karma Nirvana, wants the issue put on the school curriculum.
For all the failings of the last government, they did make some important moves on forced marriage. An (under resourced) Forced Marriage Unit was set up, and legislation was brought in to make forced marriage a civil offence. The reason it was not criminalised was because the vast majority of victims interviewed would not have come forward for help if they believed that their parents were going to be prosecuted. Therefore the law was a compromise which allowed the authorities to use the force of law without putting victims off from coming forward. The law has also resulted in some notable successes.
Yet, as Jaswinder Sanghera points out, there still needs to be a more fundamental shift in attitudes towards tackling forced marriage, particularly in schools. Many of those at risk from a forced marriage will be at school, or will have recently attended one. Knowing about their rights and what to do if they or a friend is being forced into marriage will help vulnerable individuals. There is no reason why such a subject couldn’t be covered in school. It wouldn’t take more than a lesson or two, and the information could easily be displayed around school. This is where the government can be useful. They should force schools to teach this and display the information.
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Filed in: 'Honour'-based violence