Figures show 44% fall in suspected forced marriage and FGM referred for Government advice

The number of cases of suspected forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) the Government provided advice on in 2020 fell 44%, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) gave advice or support in 759 new cases related to a possible forced marriage and/or FGM last year, according to the Home Office and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

This included 750 cases relating solely to forced marriage, six cases relating solely to FGM, and three cases relating to both.

It represents a fall of 44% compared with 2019 as well as the average number of cases each year between 2011 and 2019 (1,359).

The drop is largely due to measures relating to Covid-19, such as restrictions on weddings and overseas travel, the Home Office said.

The FMU said the figures only cover cases that have been reported, and will not reflect the full scale of this hidden crime.

The majority of cases (62%) were reported by professionals such as social services, police, borders and immigration staff, charities and those in the education, legal and health sectors.

When the first lockdown was introduced in March 2020, referrals to the FMU fell to 44 per month on average in April to June compared with 82 per month on average between January and March.

A procedural change in whether queries are logged as a new case or a general inquiry is also likely to have had a “minor impact” on numbers.

The FMU also received more than 400 general inquiries which did not relate to a specific case.

Of the cases in which the FMU provided advice or support, more than a quarter (26%) involved children, and 37% involved 18 to 25-year-olds.

One in seven (15%) were children aged 15 and under and the majority (79%) involved female victims.

The cases concerned 54 countries, excluding the UK, where the forced marriage was due to take place, had already taken place, and/or the country the spouse resides in.

Pakistan was the country linked to the largest proportion of cases, more than a third (38%) of the total.

Some 53 cases (7% of the total) had no overseas element, with the potential or actual forced marriage taking place entirely in the UK.

In 2020, the FMU recorded the nationality of victims for the first time.

The figures show that more than half (56%) of victims were British nationals, including dual nationals, while 33% were non-British nationals.

The majority (80%) of victims were in the UK at the time the case was referred.

The regions associated with the most referrals were London, the West Midlands and the North West, together making up almost half (48%).

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