Scotland: Report Reveals Forced Marriages in Edinburgh are Under-Reported
Wednesday, October 20, 2010 10:40 AM

The Direct Approach network, a partnership between Edinburgh police and organizations representing ethnic minority women, released a report on October 13th, 2010 indicating that the number of forced marriages taking place in the city is much higher than the number reported. Upon surveying 40 women from minority communities, half said they know of or are victims themselves of forced marriages. With only an average of seven cases reported annually, it is clear that there are many hidden victims.

The Scottish Parliament recently passed legislation implementing greater protection for victims of forced marriages. However, this law does not address the problem of encouraging women to come forward in the first place. Many fear the retribution they may face after revealing their situation to the police. Women that do find a way out are often forced to sever all ties with their families. Additionally, police in Edinburgh noted that they have found it extremely difficult to prosecute these and related cases. Of 31 incidents of honor-based violence in the past two years, only nine have resulted in arrests.

The report also recognizes teachers and doctors as professionals with the potential to prevent forced marriages. With training, teachers and doctors can screen for early warning signs to identify and assist victims or potential victims of forced marriage. The National Health Service's adviser on gender-based violence, Lesley Johnston, reports, "We are currently training mental health and midwifery staff to carry out a routine inquiry process." Even with this training, however, many may still be unable to determine when intervention is appropriate for the majority of cases.

Compiled from: Capital's Hidden Numbers of Forced Marriage Victims, The Scotsman, (13 October 2010).