Published on Child Rights Information Network CRIN, by AFP, July 01, 2010.
An increasing number of men are being forced into marriage, a government body revealed Thursday, often because they are gay or bisexual.
The Forced Marriage Unit FMU (see Google News-results) says it received more than 220 emails and calls to its helpline last year about suspected forced marriages involving male victims – up 65 per cent from 134 in 2008.
And the figures may be just the tip of the iceberg, experts believe, with many more cases unreported.
Because the problem is more common among women, the plight of men forced into marriage often goes unheard, ministers said.
Jeremy Browne, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) minister for consular policy, said: “Although this continues to be an issue affecting both men and women, people often don’t realise that men can be victims of forced marriage too.
“Fourteen per cent of the cases handled by the Forced Marriage Unit last year involved men and it’s a problem we are determined to raise awareness about and help communities to address” … //
… The majority of victims are still women, however, with more than 1,400 female cases dealt with by the unit last year.
Professionals who work with young people are being urged to be alert to the problem over the summer, when the number of cases traditionally rises, as families use the long holidays to coerce youngsters into marrying abroad.
Victims of forced marriage, or others acting on their behalf, can apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order and failure to comply with an order is an arrestable offence. More than 150 orders have been taken out since they came into force in November 2008.
Guidelines on forced marriages published last year by the FMU define a forced marriage as one conducted under duresss, including physical, psychological, sexual, financial or emotional pressure. They stress that a forced marriage is not the same as an arranged marriage.
The majority of cases of forced marriage reported in the UK involve South Asian families but there have been cases involving families from East Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, the FMU report stated.
Where the victim is sent abroad to marry, the unit works with foreign embassies to rescue them.
Its public helpline provides confidential advice and support to victims, and practitioners handling cases of forced marriage. (full text).