CAMPAIGNERS warned today of a possible spike in forced marriages as Britain eases lockdown restrictions and lifts quarantine rules.
Charities point to an increase in victims reaching out to them and have warned that parents could now be planning to take children abroad for weddings against their will as soon as laws on self-isolating for 14 days on return to Britain are scrapped.
The warning came as data gathered by the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), leading the government’s work on tackling the crime, indicated a rise in the number of LGBT victims.
It also revealed that more than a quarter of cases for which the unit provided advice last year involved children, while its figures indicated that the largest number of cases were linked to Pakistan.
Halo Project founder Yasmin Khan echoed the concerns, describing forced marriage as “disguising a multitude of harms” and something that can be arranged “extremely quickly.”
She said there had been a 63 per cent rise in referrals to the charity between March and May, adding that school closures had exacerbated the situation and saw victims contacting police instead.
Freedom Charity Aneeta Prem urged authorities to be alert to the concerns and said that victims were turning to shopkeepers for help.
School safeguarding rules cover “honour-based” abuse, which includes forced marriage, but Ms Prem — who has a waiting list of 200 schools asking for the charity’s accredited lesson plans and outreach projects — said more funding should be put into raising awareness.
Between 2008 and 2019, 2,452 Forced Marriage Protection Orders were granted in Britain’s courts in a bid to rescue victims.
The government branded forced marriage a “hidden crime,” admitting that the figures fell short of revealing the true scale of abuse.