This summer over 350 young people will be forced to marry someone against their will and as a result may not return to their classrooms next academic year.
The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), a joint-initiative between the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Home Office, is the Government’s specialist ‘one-stop shop’ for forced marriage. It provides support to victims of forced marriage as well as expert training and guidance to professionals working with victims or potential victims.
The FMU is preparing for its busiest time of year as a large proportion forced marriages occur during the school summer holidays. In some cases young people are taken on what they have been told is a holiday to visit family abroad, but in fact a marriage has been planned. To help teachers recognise potential forced marriage victims, the FMU has identified three important warning signs to look out for over the next few weeks:
- a student is anxious about or is fearing the forthcoming school holidays
- surveillance of a student by cousins or siblings at school or being met by family at the end of the day
- a student is prevented from going on to further or higher education.
Other signs to consider include: persistent absence; requests for extended leave; decline in behaviour, performance or punctuality; not being allowed to attend extra-curricular activities or sudden announcement of engagement to a stranger.
Joint Head of the Forced Marriage Unit Ben Rawlings said:
“Teachers can play a crucial role in identifying and protecting students who are at risk of forced marriage and we urge them to be vigilant in the run up to the summer holidays. If the warning signs are picked up early enough, a teacher can stop a forced marriage happening however it is vital that they follow our guidelines on how to handle the situation to avoid putting the victim at further risk.”
Teachers who suspect a pupil may be at risk of being forced into marriage should contact the Forced Marriage Unit helpline on 020 7008 0151 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for advice on how to handle the case. For out of hours emergency advice, call 020 7008 1500 and ask for the FCO Global Response Centre. Further information can be found by visiting our forced marriage pages.
Last year the FMU gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1,735 instances. The specialist unit has already received 738 calls or emails to its helpline about suspected forced marriages so far this year but expects the volume to rise over the summer months.