According to a new report, the U.K.’s forced marriage unit is limited in its effectiveness to tackle forced marriage as a result of underfunding and being “overly focused on Muslim families”.
Colin Bloom, the government’s faith advisor, has called for “root-and-branch reform” outlining how poor leadership, a lack of resources and the fact that forced and coercive marriage often occurs in faith-based communities is contributing to an inability to meaningfully tackle the issue.
Report may cause controversy
The 165-page report seeks to praise the work of faith groups and address key aspects of government policy as it relates to religious groups. However, the report’s call on government ministers to do more to tackle forced marriage within faith groups is expected to receive backlash.
From the 21,000 responses collected to inform this report, making it one of the government’s biggest evidence-gathering exercise ever undertaken, Bloom establishes that forced marriage is not just present in Muslim communities but across other religious communities too and called for a broader approach.
Importantly, the report makes a clear distinction between Islam and Islamist extremism and warned of far-right groups using Christian iconography to entrench ideals of ethno-nationalism that can result in threatening behavior.
Bloom will advise ministers to be clear that only a tiny minority of Muslims constitute any kind of threat to Britain.
“The government needs to make the distinction between Islamist extremism and Islam,” he said. “The vast majority of victims of Islamist extremism are Muslims themselves.”
What needs to change to tackle forced marriage
Bloom further calls for greater financial investment into the forced marriage unit and a need for it to be responsible to just one government department. Currently, the unit is responsible to both the Home Office and the Foreign Office.
He said, “The forced marriage unit is not working well. It is under-resourced and poorly led, which is the fault of politicians rather than the civil servants who work for it.”
A further concern raised in the report focuses on how gay people are forced into marriage. This type of abuse is often treated as a form of conversion therapy that has devastating consequences. In 2013, a gay Sikh man murdered his wife six months after they were forced to marry.