Dr Rowland Seymour, Assistant Professor in Mathematics, explains why the recent UK stats on forced marriage, don’t reflect the whole picture.

The Government’s Forced Marriage Unit has recently announced it supported the victims in 302 cases of forced marriage and female genital mutilation in 2022. Over 200 of these cases involved victims 25 and under, and over 60 victims had mental capacity concerns.

Understanding the true prevalence of forced marriage in the UK will have a serious impact on how potential victims are safeguarded. However, as the Unit says, forced marriage is a hidden crime and victims are often unable to unwilling to come forward. The cases the Unit deals with are likely to be a small proportion of the actual number of forced marriages in the UK.

These statistics come at a time of great change in forced marriage policy in the UK. In February, the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 came into force, raising the minimum age of marriage in England and Wales to 18 and making it a crime to facilitate a marriage for anyone under 18.

The Bloom report on government engagement with faith will also change how the forced marriage unit coordinates policy. This year, the Unit has maintained the definition of constituting a case of forced marriage, allowing comparison of year-on-year statistics. The number of cases has remained broadly the same as last year.

Karma Nirvana’s national helpline for honour based abuse continues to be more widely used than the Forced Marriage Unit. In 2022/23, the helpline received over 2,500 calls, with more than 500 of those relating to forced marriage.