How West Midlands Police are Taking a Tough Stance
• Issued 68 Protection Orders
• Recorded 6 Forced Marriage Crimes
• 300 Reports of Honour Based Violence
“I want to marry someone I want to be with…and when I’m ready” one victim told the force. However, unbelievably, it may not be that easy.
Tying the knot with a partner of your choice would appear a most basic civil right – but hopes of fairy tale weddings are a distant dream for many young men and women living in the West Midlands.
Last year, West Midlands Police investigated more than 300 reports of forced marriage and associated ‘honour’ based violence, including cases where it was suspected people – or even schoolchildren – were at risk of being pressured into marrying against their will.
West Midlands Police has officially recorded six forced marriage crimes since new legislation was introduced in June 2014 making the practice illegal.
“Some communities see this as perfectly acceptable,” said West Midlands Police’s forced marriage lead Sergeant Trudy Runham. “They see it as a trusted tradition, a way to bring girls into line, a way to ‘correct’ a gay son, or to secure a long-term carer for a child with learning disabilities. It’s far more than just two individuals coming together…it tends to be a huge investment by two families and a marriage that, in their eyes, just has to happen.
“However, no religion advocates forced marriage – and when girls and men, sometimes still in school, are going on ‘holidays’ to be married off, never to return or to return to a life of misery, it cuts through cultural sensitivities. It’s not about targeting a particular group – forced marriage knows no boundaries in terms of geography, culture, religion, class or wealth – but it’s about tackling abhorrent offences.
West Midlands has the second highest level of forced marriage in the country, accounting for 12 per cent of all cases, according to the Forced Marriage Unit, a national agency set up by the Foreign & Common Wealth Office.
Forced marriage charity Karma Nirvana – which gives specialist training inputs to police officers – said it took 260 calls for help in the West Midlands in the first six months of this year.
Sgt Runham added: “It is absolutely right and fitting that in 21st Century Britain there is a law that makes forced marriage a criminal offence. This law empowers victims and gives them choices: they can say to their families that what they are being asked to do is against the law, it’s wrong and that they can be arrested and prosecuted.