In the UK there is a government office called, the Forced Marriage Unit, setup by The Foreign Office and Home Office in 2005. The fact that such a unit exist is interesting but just last year 1,428 people asked for its help, at least 30 of whom were known to be LGBTQ+.
In mid-2014, forced marriages became illegal in the UK and were recognized as a form of violence against women and men.
A forced marriage is where one or both people do not consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used. The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be physical, emotional and/or psychological.
However, according to the BBC, hundreds of gay and lesbian people of South Asian heritage are believed to be under pressure to marry someone of the opposite sex, according to a police report, with growing numbers now contacting the police after being ordered to have a heterosexual wedding by their families.
The police report “that more people are likely to be affected as being gay is often seen as taboo among south Asian communities.”
This is supported by data from charities and LGBTQ+ organizations that have made referrals to the police.
The BBC reports that 22 gay and lesbian people of South Asian heritage have told them that at some point they were pressured to marry somebody of the opposite sex.
In most of those cases, the individuals said they were tempted to go ahead with the marriage because they did not want to embarrass their families or ruin their reputations.
The BBC shares a story of a 30-something Sikh male who told his father he was gay a couple of years ago, his father’s first response was to tell him to marry a woman to “cure” his homosexuality.
The man told the BBC, “The emotional pressure is really hard and distressing and you don’t want to bring shame on the family by saying you’re gay. I ended up marrying my partner but my parents didn’t come to
He said he lives two separate lives and is distraught his father will not accept him for who he is.
“It’s heart-breaking to see my father heart-broken because of my sexuality,” the man said.
“Homophobia is rife in some communities and to be seen as being gay or lesbian or bisexual it can absolutely destroy the dynamic of that community and this person just has that burden every single day and it can cause a great deal of anxiety and distress and, in some cases, they also feel suicidal,” said Det. Sgt. Trudy Gittins, from the West Midlands police force, to the BBC.
Sadly, this type of abuse is not isolated to the UK, we can find it around the globe in many societies, men and women marrying not for love but for family honor, a life of deceit followed by unhappiness and denial.
We have a long way to go before we see these forced marriages decline, perhaps another generation, but in the meantime we as a community need to be aware of the problem and seek solutions for those faced with a forced marriage, lest we lose another brother and sister to the pain and isolation they face in such marriages.
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