Young people in the UK are still being coerced into marriage despite laws designed to prevent it, a charity has claimed.
Forced marriage was criminalised in England and Wales in June 2014. However, the Birmingham-based Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK) claims it still receives calls from teenagers whose families are trying to marry them off despite their objections. They have been holding workshops around the country in an attempt to combat the issue.
MWNUK executive director Faeeza Vaid said forced marriage “is still a huge problem” and lamented the fact that it is “entrenched in our culture”. The workshops will give at-risk young people advice about “the steps they need to take to prevent them from becoming a victim of a forced marriage”, she added.
Ms Vaid said that the aim is “to achieve a cultural shift on this issue”, because everyone must be united in the conviction that forced marriage is “against the law, human rights and an injustice”.
In 2005, the government set up the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU). This specialist department deals with the problem within the UK and helps British nationals going through it abroad. According to official figures, the FMU handled 1,267 domestic cases last year. However, MWNUK says that a lot of incidents of forced marriage continue to be greatly underreported.
A large percentage of the cases which the FMU dealt with last year involved women from a Pakistani, Indian or Bangladeshi background. The BBC reported that 135 of them involved people with disabilities and eight featured lesbian, gay or transgender people.
Anyone found guilty of forcing someone into marriage could face a maximum of seven years in prison. A similar law was introduced in Scotland in September 2014.