A dedicated unit dealing with forced marriages in which at least one individual is a British citizen said on Thursday that it recorded less number of cases related to India in 2019 – 65 – compared to those in 2018 (85), but India remains among the UK’s top ‘focus’ countries on this issue.
Officials define forced marriage as one in which one or both spouses do not (or, in the case of some adults with learning or physical disabilities or mental incapacity, cannot) consent to the marriage, and violence, threats, or any other form of coercion is involved.
Coercion may include emotional pressure, physical force or the threat of it, and financial pressure. In an arranged marriage, by contrast, both parties have consented to the union but can still refuse to marry if they choose to. Forced marriage is a criminal offence in the UK.
The Forced Marriages Unit comprising officials from the Foreign Office and the Home Office said the number of cases linked to India in 2019 was 65 cases (5 per cent of the total cases handled during the year).
“This is lower than in 2018 when 85 cases were linked to India. There was a higher proportion of older victims as well as male victims compared with other key focus countries. 23% of the cases were linked to London and 89% of the cases related to victims while they were in the UK”, it said.
There have been cases of parents taking children on holiday to their countries of origin, and forcing them to marry there against their will.
In 2019, the unit gave advice or support in 1,355 cases related to a possible forced marriage. The highest was in relation to Pakistan (559), followed by Bangladesh (144) and India (65). The officials said the statistics represent only the cases that have been reported, adding that forced marriage is a hidden crime and that the figures will not reflect the full scale of the abuse.
The unit was established in 2005 to lead on the UK government’s forced marriage policy, outreach and casework. It operates both inside the UK, where support is provided to any individual, and overseas, where consular assistance is provided to British nationals, including dual nationals.