Schools out and most youngsters are looking forward to their next holiday adventure of a lifetime.
For others, it is a time of extraordinary anxiety and mortal danger as some families – most often from South Asian backgrounds – prepare to marry off young women and men.
According to government statistics, the summer holidays are a time when young people are most at risk of being taken abroad and forced into a marriage.
As a result, the Government has launched a new campaign to increase awareness and tackle forced marriage.
The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), which is jointly run by the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has called on victims, family members, friends and professionals to be vigilant and seek help if they believe a forced marriage is being planned, or concerned about someone they know.
“We have heard of many cases in which teenagers being taken abroad over the summer think they are going on holiday, but when they arrive at their destination they face the terrible realisation that they are being forced into a marriage instead”, said Sarah Newton, Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism.
“This Government is absolutely clear: forcing someone to marry against their will is a crime. It is an abhorrent practice that can destroy lives, and we will not allow political or cultural sensitivities to get in the way of tackling it.
“The UK is a world-leader in the fight to stamp out forced marriage. We have strong legislation in place, and our dedicated Forced Marriage Unit is leading efforts to combat this crime both at home and abroad. I urge anyone who is worried about being forced into a marriage, or is concerned about someone else being in that situation, to come forward and seek help”, she added.
The FMU has produced radio adverts to be aired both in the UK and abroad. To reach communities in countries with a high prevalence of forced marriage, the audio files have been translated into Arabic, Bengali, Punjabi, Somali and Urdu. They are based on an FMU video called ‘Right to Choose’.
“The Forced Marriage Unit works closely with Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff located across the world to support British nationals abroad facing pressure to marry against their will, as well as those already in a forced marriage”, said Foreign Office Minister for Consular Policy Tobias Ellwood.
“This campaign gives a clear message to all those who are the most vulnerable, they are not alone, they have a choice and help is available.”
In 2015, the FMU gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1,220 cases.
If someone is worried about being forced into marriage against their will, or concerned someone they know might be at risk, they should contact the police or the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU).
For more information visit www.gov.uk/forced-marriage.