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Forced Marriage Still Exists in the UK

Forced marriage survivors in the United Kingdom are making an effort to raise awareness of “honor” abuses. They are demanding a reform in government policy that would ensure that the non-consensual unions are categorized as a form of modern slavery.

Honor crimes, as defined by Human Rights Watch, are acts of violence typically committed by male family members against female family members who are seen as having brought dishonor to the family.

According to a 2017 Foreign and Commonwealth Office report, the UK region with the highest number of forced marriage cases was London where there were 307 cases. In 2016, 1,145 cases in London involved women victims while 283 cases involved male victims.

The Foreign Office’s 2018 report saw a 19 percent decrease in the number of cases across all studied regions, but, despite their high level of criminality, noted that it didn’t mean the prevalence of forced marriage had significantly decreased in the UK. Forced marriage is essentially human trafficking, but is not always regarded as such.  

“Prosecuting guidance should include forced marriage among the exploitative purposes for which someone could be trafficked,” said human rights lawyer Parosha Chandran. “Families who force their children to marry should know that it is a modern slavery offence carrying a sentence of up to life in prison.”

So, then, why are forced marriage prosecutions uncommon in the UK? There are several factors.

The biggest factor has to do with deep-seated cultural traditions – family honor is very significant. Other reasons include a stigma against speaking oModern slavery is a real issue.ut; younger victims are often too afraid to come forward to authority members.

Forced marriage was criminalized in 2014, but the UK saw its first successful conviction just this year.

“Forced marriage is not a cultural practice,” said Sunny Angel, a survivor of forced marriage, who changed her name to protect her family. “It’s a form of child abuse and modern slavery and should be investigated and prosecuted as such.”

Human trafficking, honor crimes, and domestic abuse all fit into a similar circle of oppression. The people – primarily women – stuck in a seemingly endless cycle need to be heard and acknowledged if governments wish to see the numbers of such crimes truly decrease.

Not only policy reform but policy implementation needs to happen in countries where honor crimes are not classified on the same level as human trafficking. Both are acts of violence, abuse, and exploitation and need to be referred to as such in order to truly prosecute the offenders and protect the survivors.

Featured Image by niu niu on Unsplash

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