According to the latest update from West Midlands Police, over 300 people have asked for their help in order to avoid a forced marriage during the last 12 months.
Forced marriage was made illegal in June 2014, and since that date there have been six police investigations conducted into separate planned weddings across the region.
More than 60 Forced Marriage Protection Orders have also been issued by West Midlands Police over the course of the last three years, which has resulted in checks being made to ensure a person is still in their home, in addition to passports being confiscated, preventing anyone from being forced to leave the country.
None of the six cases in the West Midlands resulted in a successful prosecution and only one person – a 34-year-old man from South Wales – has been sent to prison in the UK for forced marriage, rape and bigamy.
Detective Sergeant Trudy Runham, a forced marriage expert with West Midlands Police, said: “We have safeguarded hundreds of people by moving them out of the area or putting safety plans in place for them but this success goes unrecognised as the spotlight is always on prosecution numbers.
“The problem is that a forced marriage is perceived as an act of love and not hate.
“Those who suffer do not want to criminalise their family they just want their behaviour to change.”
Some communities believe that forced marriage is an acceptable practice, which is a difficult issue for the police to tackle.
DS Runham added that “They see it as a trusted tradition, a way to bring girls into line, a way to ‘correct’ a gay son, or to secure a long-term carer for a child with learning disabilities.
“This is not about targeting a particular group. Forced marriage knows no boundaries in terms of geography, culture, religion, class or wealth.”
Karma Nirvana – the forced marriage charity – liaises with the police to help provide specialist training to officers, so they are informed about associated issues and how to handle individuals involved in cases.
Anyone who is seeking help relating to forced marriage is being urged to contact West Midlands Police or Karma Nirvana on 0800 599 9247 or online at www.karmanirvana.org.uk.