Britain’s Forced Marriage Unit was set up in 2005

Summer vacation is the time when the phenomenon of “forced marriages” peak in Britain, the UK Home Government on Saturday issued a warning to teachers, doctors and airport staff to be alert to the possibility of such marriages. Summer vacations are the time when children are taken overseas by their parents on the pretext of a vacation, but are then married off against their will.

Serious abuse

Calling it a “serious abuse of human rights”, Crime Prevention Minister Jeremy Browne said in a press release, “The rise in forced marriage reports over the school holidays is shocking. Teenagers expecting their GCSE or A-level results should be embarking on a bright future, not condemned to a marriage with someone they have never met and do not want to marry.” He asked young people at risk to “Please come forward; you do not have to suffer in silence; there is help available and it can be stopped”.

According to Britain’s Forced Marriage Unit that was set up in 2005 to deal with forced marriage policy, outreach and prevention, between January and December 2012, the body gave advice or support to a possible forced marriage in 1,485 cases. Of these 35 per cent of cases involved victims less than 17 years of age. Female victims accounted for 82 per cent and male 18 per cent, with the oldest victim 71 years and the youngest two.

The FMU handled cases involving 60 countries. Pakistan (47.1 per cent), Bangladesh (11 per cent) and India (eight per cent) top the list, with countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Turkey, Iraq, Iran also on the list.

Highest risk

Pointing out that school summer holidays is the time when “young people are at the highest risk of being taken overseas for a forced marriage”, Foreign Office Minister Mark Simmonds said that the ‘Marriage: it’s your choice’ cards that the FCU had issued “highlights that people who are at risk of forced marriage … can turn to our Forced Marriage Unit for support — whether they are at home or are already abroad”.

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