Statistics published by the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) reveal a 44% decrease in the number of cases handled in 2020.
Figures show that the FMU handled 759 cases in 2020 and an average of 1359 cases annually between 2011 and 2019, representing a 44% decrease in cases received.
Of the 759 cases received in 2020, 750 cases solely related to forced marriage, three cases related to both forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), and six cases solely related to FGM. This figure includes contact that was made to the FMU through the public helpline or by email in relation to a new case. This does not include over 400 general enquires the unit received which did not relate to a specific case.
Figures also show that of 759 cases in 2020 the FMU provided advice or support to:
- 199 cases (26%) involving victims below 18 years of age
- 278 cases (37%) involving victims aged 18-25
- 66 cases (9%) involving victims with mental capacity concerns
- 603 cases (79%) involving female victims, and 156 cases (21%) involved male victims.
These proportions are broadly in line with case numbers from recent years.
It was recently reported that the minimum legal age for marriage is set to rise to 18 in England and Wales following a Bill introduced by Health Secretary Sajid Javid to help combat child abuse and forced marriages in minors.
The overall reduction in cases in 2020 is thought to be largely attributable to reasons derived from the coronavirus pandemic, such as restrictions on weddings and overseas travel, which have been in place to varying degrees from March 2020. Following the introduction of the first lockdown in the UK, referrals to the FMU decreased from an average of 82 per month (January-March 2020) to 44 per month (April-June 2020). It is also thought that a procedural change regarding whether to log a new case as a referral or a general enquiry is also likely to have had a minor impact on the overall number of cases compared with previous years.
The FMU remained fully operational throughout the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic and took steps to ensure that this was publicised extensively.
The statistics can be viewed here.