Deputy Commissioner speaks out against forced marriages

Women who find themselves victims of forced marriage and honour based violence are being urged by Derbyshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Hardyal Dhindsa, to seek help from the police.

Mr Dhindsa, speaking out in the lead-up to International Women’s Day on Friday, said: “Forced marriage has far-reaching impacts, and particularly with regard to safeguarding children and families.

“I am, however, pleased to say that multi-agency professional help is increasingly emerging. Both the police and partner agencies know about these crimes and ready to help victims find a solution.”

He added: “Only this week we saw the launch of a Government-funded smartphone Freedom app. It provides information and sources of help aimed not just at potential victims – who so often don’t know where to go for help – but also at their friends, teachers and professionals.”

He also acknowledged Prime Minister David Cameron’s promise to make forced marriage a criminal offence and said he hoped it would be sooner rather than later. It is hoped that legislation will be brought forward this year or next.

Mr Dhindsa stressed that voluntary as well as statutory organisations could help by being aware of the warning signs surrounding forced marriage. “This can make all the difference at what can be a pivotal point in a young person’s life,” he said. “I’m pleased that the agencies involved are working hard to ensure their frontline staff are trained to pick up the subtle signs that can identify potential victims of forced marriage, grooming and coercion.

“I am very keen to see victims of forced marriage and of honour based violence supported properly. It’s vital that we make sure people are reporting these things and that they are being recorded properly. We need to ensure that the victims realise that they are not alone and that help is at hand.”

Derbyshire Police say that this type of crime is typically under-reported due to victims not wanting to criminalise people they know, although there has been a slight increase over recent years due to increased confidence in the police and the police’s improved approach and sensitivity to the issues.

Their approach is more victim focussed, identifying what the victim wants to achieve by involving the police and understanding that is some cases this may involve the victim wanting to remain within the family unit.

Mr Dhindsa went on to say that it was important to note the difference between arranged and forced marriages which, he said, is not always distinguished.

A government survey in 2009 estimated that between 5,000 and 8,000 young people are forced into marriage each year in the UK.