On Wednesday night (Sept 30) Channel Four broadcasts arguably the most important TV programme of 2015 – lifting the lid on forced marriage and so-called “honour” crime in Britain’s ethnic minority communities.
‘Forced Marriage Cops’ follows a group of specially-trained officers tasked with investigating the crimes in and around Greater Manchester.
Producers spent nearly two years following the officers as they try to crack down on a scourge that claims scores of victims every year but goes largely unreported.
In the programme, we meet a 26-year-old woman who turns to the police for help after fleeing her abusive father and another woman who was forced into marriage 16 years ago but is now armed with enough knowledge about the laws to realize that she can be free.
Across Manchester there have been 239 reported incidents of honour based abuse and forced marriage although the true scale of the abuse is much more widespread given the closed nature of many communities.
So-called honour crime came to public prominence in 2009 following the murder of Warrington teenager Shafelia Ahmed.
Her parents killed their ‘westernised’ teenage daughter because they believed she had brought shame on the family. They were only brought to justice in 2013.
Detective Chief Superintendent Vanessa Jardine, head of Greater Manchester Police’s Public Protection Division, said: “I am delighted that Channel 4 decided to follow the work of our teams – it’s a truly ground-breaking look at the work we do to tackle this crime, which is often concealed by families behind closed doors.
“Each day we work with our partners and local community to detect and protect victims and tackle what is an incredibly sensitive subject. There are thousands of women affected throughout the country and we want this production to show them that help available and they will be taken seriously.
“Being forced into marriage to uphold family honour is not acceptable and everyone should have the right to choose who they want to spend their lives with”.