Drug rehabilitation workers are urging people in the Asian community to speak out for male victims of forced marriage after recent figures showed that the number of cases has risen by a third.
Manchester-based Reaching Out, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation project aimed at the city’s minority ethnic communities, says it has come across several cases in which young Asian men addicted to heroin are coerced into getting married because parents and family members believe the responsibility will help them stop misusing drugs.
The government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) received over 220 emails and calls to its helpline about suspected forced marriages involving male victims in 2009 – up from 134 in 2008. Men in Yorkshire made up 15 per cent of the total number of cases reported. This year, over 80 reports of male forced marriage have been received.
Reaching Out’s Jawad Mahboob urged victims and members of the Asian community to report cases to the FMU.
“In many south Asian families there is the belief that if a son is involved with drugs and alcohol or criminal behaviour, marriage is the solution,” said Mahboob.
“They believe that the responsibility of marriage will sort the son’s head out and this has been happening for many years. However, young people I’ve worked with believe it makes their addiction much worse.
“They start to believe that marriage is a good solution. But once they get into the marriage, they quickly find that it isn’t.”
Mohammed Ashfaq of Birmingham-based drug rehabilitation group KIKIT added: “Parents feel they’ve failed and become afraid that nobody will marry into the family because their son is a drug addict. So they take their son home to Pakistan or Bangladesh, get him married and out of what they think is a harmful environment.
“But in attempting to get drugs to feed his habit, he’s now in an unfamiliar environment where he’ll trust anyone and can be given anything.”
James Brokenshire, Home Office minister for crime prevention, said: “The figures are proof that both men and women are victims of forced marriage so it’s vitally important that we encourage victims who have been affected to come forward and get the help they need.”