Forced Marriage and Honour Based Violence
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Merseyside Protocol Forced Marriage
In arranged marriages, the families of both spouses take a leading role in arranging the marriage but the choice of whether or not to accept the arrangement remains with the prospective spouses.
Forced marriage is a marriage conducted without the valid consent of one or both parties, where some element of duress is a factor.
The United Nations views Forced Marriage as a form of human rights abuse, since it violates the principle of freedom and the autonomy of individuals. This is acknowledged under the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights, article 16(2):
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
So called ‘honour’ based violence
So called ‘honour’ based violence (HBV) is where the person is being punished by their family or their community. They are being punished because of a belief, actual or alleged, that a person has not been properly controlled enough to conformity and thus this is to the ‘shame’ or ‘dishonour’ of the family.
‘Honour Based Violence’ is a crime or incident, which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and/or community members (ACPO 2007).
Not everyone who is at risk from Honour Based Violence has been subjected to Forced Marriage
One Chance Rule
All practitioners working with victims of forced marriage and HBV need to be aware of the ‘one chance’ rule. That is, they may only have one chance to speak to a potential victim and may only have one chance to save a life. This means that all practitioners working within statutory agencies need to be aware of their responsibilities and obligations when they become aware of potential forced marriage/ HBV cases. If the victim is allowed to walk out the door without support being offered, that one chance might be wasted.
Coercion is likely to have been used with one or both spouses; by family members, friends and the wider community. This may include: threats of violence, being held against their will, emotional threats and other forms of coercion and harassment, such as not being allowed to go anywhere without being accompanied by someone.
There is a common misconception that forced marriages and HBV are confined to certain religious groups and cultures, however this is not the case. The practice of forced marriage and HBV is not confined to one culture or religious group and can happen regardless of ethnicity, culture, religion, disability, age, gender and sexuality. Any person can find themselves in a situation where they are offered no choice but to proceed with the marriage.
What to do if you're worried about a child
Remembering the ‘one chance rule’ the agency should carefully question the person concerned as cases are frequently complex and highly sensitive to the individual.
The reason behind the forced marriage and HBV may be due to sexuality or disability as well as cultural belief. The majority of victims will be women but this does not mean that there are not male victims.
Initially agencies will need to consider completing the following:
- Ensure the victim is seen in a safe and private place
- See the victim on their own. If an interpreter is needed, take steps to ensure that the interpreter is not connected with the individual or community
- Risk assess and discuss a safety plan
- Where victim is under 18, refer to child safeguarding procedures
- Where the victim is over 18, refer to adult safeguarding procedures
- Inform the victim of their right to seek legal advice and representation
- Identify any potential criminal offences and refer to the police if appropriate
- Reassure the victim. This will include ensuring that their confidentiality1 is maintained
- Establish a safe way of maintaining contact with the victim
Make a note of all the information available to you at the time, including a description of the victim and details of any known or alleged perpetrators and potential immediate risks
- Record any current contacts with other professionals, health, social services, third sector etc
- Provide accurate information to the victim about their rights and choices and respect their wishes when possible, remembering that in certain instances information may be shared without consent, for example, child protection
- Contact a specialist in forced marriage for further advice and support
- Consider the need for immediate protection and placement away from the family
It is important to remember that in these instances family members, friends and the community may pose the biggest risk to the victim.
- Attempt to mediate,
- Send the victim away without having taken appropriate action,
- Approach family members and/or members of the community without an express request from the victim
- Breach confidentiality or share information inappropriately, unless due to safeguarding concerns for a child or vulnerable adult
If practitioners are aware, or suspect that a child or young person may be at risk of forced marriage or honour based violence they should report these concerns to CarelineHub on 0151 233 3700 (concerns must be followed up in writing within one working day using the Multi Agency Refrral form (MARF).
If you feel that a child is in immediate danger: dial 999.
Merseyside Forced Marriage Protocol