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Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Friday, 27 November 2009

Forced marriages in the north west 'are not reported'

FMU poster
A national information campaign was led by the Forced Marriage Unit

Within the last year, 86 Forced Marriages Protection Orders (FMPOs) have been carried out in England and Wales.

Yet the take-up within the North West has been surprisingly low.

Only three FMPOs have been enforced regionally - while 34 have been implemented in the Midlands and at least 24 in London.

A spokesman from the Ministry of Justice admits the reason behind this needs more exploration.

Mussurut Zia, who runs a forced marriage advisory service in Blackburn believes the protection orders have not been publicised well.

"There's a lower uptake in the north west because there's a far more insular community and the awareness of the Forced Marriage Orders (FMOs) isn't there".

Forced marriages

The Forced Marriage Act allows victims and third parties, ranging from relatives to local authorities, to apply for the prevention of a forced marriage.

A forced marriage occurs when either or both parties do not give their free consent and often involves pressure or abuse.

Forced Marriage: Facts
Wedding rings
In 2008 more than 1600 reports were made to the governments FMU unit
The majority involve families of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin
There are also some of Indian, Middle Eastern, European and African backgronds
Courts can now stop a forced marriage from taking place

It is different to an arranged marriage, which may have been set up by a relative or friend, but has been willingly agreed to by the couple.

Courts can now stop a forced marriage from taking place and order those responsible to change their behaviour or otherwise face jail.

The Act also provides a way out for those that are already in an unwanted union.

In July, the government published new guidelines for police, teachers, social and health workers.

Research showed that, despite some examples of good practice, local agencies needed to improve their coordination at identifying and preventing forced marriages.

In 2008, more than 1600 reports of possible forced marriages were made to the government's Forced Marriage Unit, 15% of which were cases from the north west.

The majority involve families of Pakistani (70%), and Bangladeshi (11%) origin, although there are also some of Indian, Middle Eastern, European and African backgrounds.

Mussurut says that some members of the South Asian community see the FMOs as interference and another way of demonising them.

"The sticking point is that potential victims don't want orders served on their parents, or whoever is responsible - they just want a way out of the situation."

However, she believes that forcing a person into marriages should be a criminal, rather than a civil, offence. "It should have been categorised as an abuse and any abuse is criminally wrong."

If you are worried that you may be forced into a marriage or are worried about someone else who might be, you can contact the Forced Marriage Unit on 0207 008 0151 (or 0044 20 7008 0151 if you are overseas).

A safe haven from forced marriages
11 Nov 09 |  Religion and Ethics
Schools warned on forced marriage
23 Nov 09 |  Bradford
Forced marriage 'never acceptable'
02 Jul 09 |  Today


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