Forced marriage is usually talked about in relation to women or child brides being coerced into wedding someone. But did you know that 20% of cases of forced marriage in the UK actually involve male victims?
Despite comprising a sizeable share of cases, male victims of forced marriage have few, if any resources. As Maz Idirss, a Lecturer in Law at Manchester Metropolitan University, writes, “they have become the forgotten victims.”
Idirss categorizes forced marriage as a form of honor-based violence, which “occurs when the actions of a victim are perceived by their family to have damaged its reputation.” This can include things like having a relationship outside of marriage or refusing to proceed with a forced marriage.
In a column for The Conversation, Idriss explains that male victims may feel deeper shame in coming forward:
Responding to and improving service provision for men poses certain challenges. Male victims have been neglected due to a combination of factors, including a lack of awareness. There is also resistance or dismissiveness by some organisations to address the service needs of men.
The social construction that “men cannot be victims”, as well as a framework that views the service needs of women as a higher priority, adds to this complexity.
Barriers for men to report their abuse also exist in the form of concepts of masculinity, honour and shame. All these issues can prevent male victims from coming forward.
It is true that cases of honour-based violence and forced marriage generally relate to violence inflicted by older male relatives. But perpetrators can also be women and wives. Where women are the perpetrators, men often avoid reporting it because of the fear of being ridiculed or shamed.
In 2014, the government criminalized forced marriage, but this is particularly complicated for victims of forced marriage since it is usually their own family members who are the perpetrators. Though some may be willing to see their family members jailed, other victims may not be willing to go that far to escape a forced marriage.
On top of this, Idriss writes that police are not well-trained to spot and understand cases of forced marriage, especially when men were the victims.
In tandem with Idriss’ research, Manchester Metropolitan University will be hosting an “Honour-Based Violence (HBV) National Roadshow 2018” to discuss how to improve support for victims, both women and men.