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Report urges further action to combat forced marriage

30 January 2017

An "innovative programme" of further action to combat forced marriage heads the recommendations in a report by a Scottish Government research group, published today.

Commissioned by the Scottish Government in September 2015, the 10 month study was the first to focus exclusively on Scotland. It aimed to find out the use made of services relating to forced marriage in Scotland, how services responded, and the impact of the interventions for forced marriage.

Focusing on six local authority areas, the study heard of 191 cases of forced marriage over the period from 2011 to 2014, often involvng young female South Asian victims, though better recording of data in this regard is also recommended. Interviews with survivors indicated an age range of 14 to 25 for forced marriage to take place, with help becoming available only when those concerned reached Scotland.

It reports a lack of consistency in practice in dealing with forced marriage, with an onus sometimes being placed in the victim. Professionals were more supportive of criminalising forced marriage than survivors, who suggested it should be used as a last resort if at all. 

Among the recommendations are:

  • an innovative programme of further public and community awareness-raising activity, to prevent forced marriage and to encourage increased reporting;
  • further regular training on forced marriage for a range of professionals, including legal professionals;
  • increased ownership and consistency of approach at a local authority policy level throughout Scotland;
  • ensuring that therapeutic and practical support is available to victims;
  • evaluation of interventions to develop better understanding of what types of interventions work for whom
  • addressing the issues the research identified in relation to implementing forced marriage legislation;
  • strengthening the statutory guidance to make explicit local authorities‟ obligations to act in all cases of forced marriage.

Sarah McHaffie, from Amina Womens Aid, commented: “Research into the extent of forced marriage can only give us the tip of the iceberg. There is so much pressure to keep things hidden. Some victims don’t have the ability to name the coercion that takes place. However, quality research into this topic allows us as an organisation to demonstrate the need for our work with women."

She added: “We hope that third sector and statutory organisations will prioritise this issue, raise their own awareness and improve responses in order to better support those at risk.”

Click here to view the report.

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