A majority of forced marriages in the UK take place within Britain’s Pakistani community, new statistics reveal.
According to figures released by the Forced Marriage Unit – a collaboration between the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – reveal that nearly forty percent of the 1267 cases the FMU dealt with in 2014 involved individuals of Pakistani origin, followed by those from India (7.8%), Bangladesh (7.1%), Afghstanistan (3%), Somalia (1.6 per cent), Turkey (1.1 per cent), Sri Lanka (1.1 per cent), Iran (1 per cent) and Iraq (0.7 per cent).
More than three fourths of all the cases handled by the FMU had an “overseas element”, meaning one of the parties involved in the marriage were based in the country of origin of the UK-based family.
135 cases involved victims with disabilities and eight involved victims who identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), the FMU said.
Most alarmingly, more than one in ten cases handled by the FMU involved an individual under the age of 16.
Forced Marriage was made a criminal offence on 16 June 2014 with a maximum penalty of seven years in jail for anyone found guilty of the crime.
The FMU’s statistics come a week after a 34-year-old businessman from Cardiff was jailed for filming a Muslim woman taking a shower to blackmail her into becoming his second wife in the FMU’s first successful prosecution.
The man was jailed for a total of 16 years on a number of charges, including rape, bigamy, voyeurism as well as forced marriage.
“We made forced marriage a crime to better protect victims and send a clear message that this brutal practice is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the UK. We also hope that criminalisation will act as a deterrent,” said Karen Bradley, UK minister for preventing abuse and exploitation.
“The UK is a world-leader in the fight to stamp this out, with our Forced Marriage Unit leading efforts to combat the practice both at home and abroad,” she said.
The criminal offence of Forced Marriage works alongside Forced Marriage Protection Orders (FMPOs), which provide a specific civil remedy to prevent forced marriage and assist victims where a marriage has already taken place.
The breach of an FMPO was made a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.