Ministers today urged greater vigilance about British men being forced into marriage after a surge in reported cases over the past year.
The number of contacts with the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit concerning male victims rose 65 per cent from 134 in 2008 to 220 last year.
But officials believe the figures are still only “the tip of an iceberg” as the problem is under-reported for both sexes. There were 1,682 forced marriage cases referred to the FMU last year, but it is estimated that in reality there are more like 10,000 incidents.
Most cases involve families from south Asia and most victims are aged between 15 and 24. Victims are often locked up, subjected to physical and sexual violence and forcibly removed to other countries if they refuse to comply with their families’ wishes.
Homosexual men in particular face being forced to marry because their families refuse to accept them. Other cases can revolve around property issues, securing visas or other family expectations.
Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne said the Government wanted to help communities address the issue and urged victims to speak out.
“Boys and men who are forced into marriage find it harder to ask for help than women, but we are urging males affected by forced marriage to speak out and seek the help that is available to them,” he said.
“Of course, women make up the majority of forced marriage victims and over 1,400 reports of women facing this abuse were dealt with by the unit last year.
“Any professionals working with young people who suspect that a forced marriage could take place should contact the Forced Marriage Unit for advice.”
The FMU, a joint unit of the Foreign Office and Home Office, is concerned that many people fail to realise that it is an issue that affects men.
With the approach of the school summer holidays, when the danger of young people being taken out of the country against their will is particularly high, ministers sought to raise awareness.
Support is available from caseworkers at the FMU and victims, or people acting on their behalf, can apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order.
The Forced Marriage Unit can be called in confidence on 020 7008 0151, or emailed via email@example.com.