The government has issued new guidelines to help health professionals identify and protect children at risk of forced marriage.
Also aimed at police, social workers, education professionals and housing officers, the guidelines were developed by the government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), in collaboration with other government departments and the Welsh Assembly Government.
This year, the FMU received 770 calls or emails to its helpline regarding forced marriage, an increase in 16% compared with the same period last year.
Health minister Ann Keen said: ‘Forced marriage is a form of violence against women and child abuse. There are links to depression and self-harm. It is important that where victims come into contact with a health professional they are directed to appropriate support, as described in the updated multi-agency guidelines.’
Figures for 2009 show the majority of reports to the FMU involve families of Pakistani origin (70%) and Bangladeshi origin (11%), with smaller percentages of those of Indian, Middle Eastern, European, and African origin.
The FMU runs a public helpline providing advice and support to practitioners as well as handling calls from victims and members of the public reporting forced marriages.
Anyone wishing to contact the helpline can call 020 7008 0151 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, or email email@example.com. For out of hours emergencies, call 020 7008 1500.