British police are warning people about illegal forced marriages by stationing officers at major airports.
The officers’ main goal at the airport is to identify victims and prevent them from being taken out of the country. They are also trying to raise awareness about this issue.
According to The Independent, investigators looked into a record 1,764 potential forced marriages last year. Hundreds of these investigations revealed victims who were minors.
Earlier this month, a woman escaped her forced marriage by fleeing during her honeymoon and flying back to the UK alone.
While anyone can be the victim of a forced marriage, LGBTI people are particularly vulnerable.
Being made to live a ‘correct’ life
LGBTI people are vulnerable to this crime when their family or culture don’t approve of homosexuality. Forced marriage includes people making an LGBTI person marry someone of the opposite sex.
Sometimes, LGBTI people of the opposite sex will marry one another to placate their family and avoid further consequences.
Another aspect of this reality is ‘corrective rape’. This is when an LGBTI person is forced to have sex with someone of the opposite sex in the hopes of ‘correcting’ their sexuality.
Matters of consent and fear
Forced marriages bring up discussions of consent, as well as other issues such as fear and LGBTI rights.
In the case of minors in forced marriages, or people with learning difficulties, they are not able to consent to the marriage.
For others, such as LGBTI victims, fear of consequences may leave them unable to report their family or whoever is forcing them into a marriage. Many LGBTI victims come from societies where people do not accept homosexuality. LGBTI people are then pressured into these marriages, rather than come out and face consequences including discrimination, violence, or even death.
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 made forced marriages illegal in the UK.
They still happen frequently, however, as statistics reveal, and British police are making it a bigger priority now.
What are the British police doing?
Officers, along with social services, health services, and charities, launched Operation Limelight on 15 July.
Tactics of this operation include ‘educating airport and airline staff to spot the signs and increase their confidence in reporting suspicious activity to police’ as well as using intelligence to identify victims.
National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) forced marriage lead, Commander Ivan Balhatchet, said: ‘Forced marriage is a violation of human rights. Officers will be at airports using intelligence to intervene to prevent victims being taken abroad for a forced marriage. We’ll also be equipping airport staff to spot signs and encouraging them to report suspicions to us.
‘The isolation, threats and violence that victims experience means that this is not something that can be tackled by police alone. That’s why our close partnership with public and third sector organisations during this operation will be key.’
Balhatchet added airports are the ‘last chance to save someone from a forced marriage’ because it can be hard to return people to the UK once they’re abroad.
A spokesperson for the NPCC told GSN: ‘The officers involved in this operation are highly trained in this area and are aware that this crime does affect the LGBTI+ community, so of course they will be looking for all types of victims.’