The UK is a world-leader in the fight to stamp out the brutal practice of forced marriage. With our dedicated joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) - Home Office led Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) leading efforts to combat it at home and abroad. We know that forced marriage can be a hidden crime, and we want to see more victims coming forward. That is why we have introduced lifelong anonymity for victims through the Policing and Crime Act 2017.
We are absolutely committed to ensuring that the police and other agencies understand this crime and respond effectively. The FMU operates a public helpline to provide advice and support to victims and professionals, and also carries out a comprehensive outreach programme of over 100 events a year for statutory agencies such as the police, as well as affected communities. In addition, the FMU has published statutory guidance and made available free e-learning which highlights that forced marriage can affect men and boys as well as women and girls, and that those with learning and other disabilities may be particularly vulnerable. In December 2016, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and police published their first ever joint forced marriage investigation and prosecution protocol, to highlight the importance of working in partnership.
Cases involving very young children often involve the promise of a future marriage rather than an imminent marriage. Anyone with concerns about a potential victim of any age can contact the FMU for advice.
We know there is more to do and we will continue to work with the police, CPS and College of Policing to drive improvements in the enforcement response, including through the National Oversight Group chaired by the Home Secretary.
The Home Office works closely with the FCO on this issue. The Minister for Asia and the Pacific, Mr Sharma, met political and non-Governmental organisation (NGO) representatives from the British-Pakistani community on 4 January 2017. Their discussion focused on challenges of looking after the interests of British citizens who spend time in and have family ties with Pakistan, and included the subject of forced marriage.
Wider work to tackle forced marriage overseas includes the Department for International Development’s £39 million regional programme “Accelerating Action to End Child Marriage”, which supports UNICEF/UNFPA in 12 priority countries.