The government is funding new research into disabled people who are victims of forced marriages, following increasing concerns about the scale of the problem.
News of the research emerged after a man was jailed for trying to sell his disabled sister, who has learning difficulties, into a forced marriage.
Michael Wright, 22, from Swindon, was arrested by officers from the UK Border Agency as he arrived with his sister for the ceremony at Reading Register Office with would-be groom Ligang Qiao last August.
Wright had agreed to let Qiao marry his sister – in exchange for £8,000 – to aid his application to stay in the UK once his visa ran out.
Wright pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to assisting unlawful entry into the UK, and perjury, and was jailed this week for four years. Qiao and two other Chinese nationals were jailed for between 15 months and two years each, and will be deported at the end of their sentences.
Detective Inspector Andy Cummins, of the UK Border Agency, said it was a “despicable crime” and Wright had “attempted to exploit a member of his own family for his own financial gain”, while the other gang members “sought to take advantage of a vulnerable woman”.
A Foreign Office spokesman said its Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) – run jointly with the Home Office – had seen “a number” of cases where disabled people were forced into marriage, either by families trying to provide a disabled relative with a long-term carer or for visa reasons.
He said: “Accurate statistics for forced marriage are very difficult to compile, given its often-clandestine nature, but the incidence among people with disabilities has been the subject of increasing concern over recent years.
“The FMU are funding research to look into this area, and to compare best practice in responses. The findings will inform the unit’s future work.”
Meanwhile, the Equality and Human Rights Commission is preparing to investigate the problem of disabled women who are forced into marriage.
The EHRC’s disability committee will look at the issue as part of the commission’s Violence Against Women programme.
Anyone who is worried that they might be forced into marriage or is worried about a friend or relative can call the Forced Marriage Unit in confidence on 020 7008 0151.
11 February 2010