3,500 cases of forced marriages, campaigners call for complete crackdown


LONDON: Campaigners are calling for tougher penalties on forced marriages after more than 3,500 cases were reported to police within just three years. The data reveals the extent of the modern slavery problem currently facing Britain, with thousands more calls about forced marriage made to women’s groups and charities in recent years, the Daily Mail has reported.
Support group Karma Nirvana revealed it took almost 9,000 calls about forced marriages in 2017 while a national helpline was contacted 22,000 times between 2014-2016. During the same period, the police were contacted 3,546 times with official reports made about the marriages, based on figures obtained by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation.
Jasvinder Sanghera, of women’s support group Karma Nirvana, said the organisation is contacted about sex and physical slavery from within forced marriages on a weekly basis It is unknown how many women involved are British citizens and how many are brought into the UK from abroad specifically to marry, although Karma Nirvana say the majority of its calls concern British nationals. The figures come just a week after a mother from Birmingham was jailed for more than four years for tricking her daughter into travelling abroad and entering a forced marriage.
It was the first case of its kind in the UK despite the huge numbers of reported incidents to authorities. According to the Guardian, Karma Nirvana has been contacted more than 200 times about children under 15 being compelled to marry, while eight of its cases referred to children aged 10 or under.
Speaking to the paper, Karma Nirvana director Jasvinder Sanghera said the Birmingham case was ‘typical’ and said the organisation is contacted about forced domestic and sexual slavery within arranged marriages on a weekly basis. She said: ‘We know there are thousands of women and girls in Britain – but men, too – living behind closed doors in forced marriages, yet the crime is woefully under-reported.
The charity says women brought to the UK from abroad are often unable to speak English and have no money or family and thus are threatened with deportation unless they comply. Forced marriage is a criminal offence under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, including taking someone abroad or into the UK for such a purpose.