The Foreign Office is treating Forced Marriage as a family dispute rather than a serious criminal offence which is shameful

A recent report detailing that British Citizens who are victims of forced marriage are being made to pay for their own rescue and repatriation to the UK highlights the terrible way that victims of honour based violence are still treated by professionals who should know better.

All too often this issue is still treated as a “family dispute” rather than the heinous crime that it is. Forced Marriage often involves kidnap, false imprisonment, assault, threats to kill and rape. It also carries a high risk of victims being murdered if they try to resist or escape. There is a very good reason that when (mainly) young women report that they are concerned about this, even in the UK, the police as a matter of course take DNA from them so that their remains can be identified easier after a homicide.

The fact that the government then compound this awful abuse by holding the victim to ransom by refusing to help them unless they pay or take out a loan is shameful.

These victims are often very vulnerable and as they are being abused by family members often have no one they can go to for help. They often have to leave their community and are unable to have any relationship with family members or friends from that community due to the risk. How are they supposed to repay a loan? By asking the same family members who have abused them?

It’s not as though they have gone on holiday and in some way recklessly lost their passport and are turning to the foreign office for help. These are victims of the worst crimes imaginable and to respond by demanding money as a condition for providing help makes the government almost as bad as the perpetrators of the abuse as it may leave many feeling as though they cannot access the help they need. Access to justice and protection from violence, torture and rape should never be dependent on finances and the government needs to rectify this issue immediately.

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