British officials have been dealing with several cases of young Indian-origin women being forced into marriages against their will, but recent cases show a sharp increase of men facing such ordeals.
Britain has set up a Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) that deals with cases of British citizens being forcibly taken to the Indian sub-continent and married against their will for cultural, immigration or family reasons.
The unit has rescued several young women, but it is estimated that most cases go unreported. Latest figures show that during the last year, the unit registered a 65 per cent rise in the number of calls from men.
The unit received the most calls from men linked to Pakistan, followed by India and Bangladesh. It also received calls from British men with links to the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe.
A spokesman said: “The calls we receive are the tip of the iceberg. It now seems likely that men account for one in five of all the forced marriages that take place to British citizens.”
In June, the FMU took a call from a young man in Leicester whose family had allegedly locked him in his bedroom after discovering that he was gay.
He told the FMU that his family were downstairs, discussing whether to take him to India and either kill him, abandon him there or marry him off.
Last year, the FMU gave advice and support to 1,682 men and women regarding suspected forced marriage.
More than 220 calls and emails involved male victims, up from 134 in 2008. As of the end of May this year, there have been 88 calls from men for help.
Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne said: “Boys and men who are forced into marriage find it harder to ask for help than women, but we are urging males affected by forced marriage to speak out and seek the help that is available to them.”
He added: “Of course, women make up the majority of forced marriage victims, and over 1,400 reports of women facing this abuse were dealt with by the FMU last year.
But people often don’t realise that men can be victims of forced marriage too.”