Forced Marriages and ‘Honour Crimes’ Spike in UK During Christmas Season

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More than 3,500 reports of forced marriage were made to police over a three-year period, a Guardian investigation has found, as charities warned that there were thousands more victims living in conditions of modern slavery in homes across the UK; especially around the festive season of Christmas.

The number of girls sold into forced marriages and the rate of so-called “honour crimes” spikes during the Christmas season, a UK based charity has claimed.

Karma Nirvana, a national charity that trains the police, NHS, and social services on the issue of honour-based abuse and forced marriage, said that the horrific crimes against girls and women spike during the holiday season in the UK.

The charity said that “honour crimes” including forced marriages, female genital mutilation and “honour killings” rose by 57 per cent during December of last year and January of this year, according to The Independent.

  • A greater awareness of forced marriage being a crime and the support available, caused by:

– Two court cases which received significant amounts of media attention and resulted in prosecutions

  • Wider media attention possibly raising awareness of forced marriage – Launch of the Home Office communication campaign about forced marriage.
    An improved data recording process.
  • 574 cases (33%) involved victims below 18 years of age; and a further: 542 cases (31%) involved victims aged 18-25.
  • 165 cases (9%) involved victims aged 26-30.
  • 146 cases (8%) involved victims aged 31-40.
  • 45 cases (3%) involved victims aged 41 and over.

In 17% of cases the age of the victims was unknown.

In 2018, the majority of cases – 1,322 (75%) – involved women, with 297 cases (17%) involving men (gender in the remaining cases was unknown). These proportions are in line with previous years.

Forced marriage is illegal in England and Wales. This includes: taking someone overseas to force them to marry (whether or not the forced marriage takes place) marrying someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage (whether they’re pressured to or not)

Forced marriage is not a problem specific to one country or culture. Since 2011, the FMU has handled cases relating to over 110 countries across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America.

Natasha Rattu, the director of Karma Nirvana, said that despite the spike in honour crimes, the charity receives 22 per cent fewer calls from the public and officials during December because authorities believe it to be a low-risk period.

“It is strange you do not get the same increase of calls before Christmas as you get before other holidays because we know that pupils go missing around Christmas. We tend to find it is the week before they break up because travel tends to be cheaper”, Rattu said.

“Those absences go unnoticed because it is Christmas – girls at risk are more invisible at that time of year. Everything before and over Christmas grinds down to a halt. There are often fears among victims about escalation over the festive period”, she added.


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