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Publication - Research publication

Understanding forced marriage in Scotland

Published: 30 Jan 2017
Part of:
Equality and rights, Research

Research carried out to better understand forced marriage in Scotland.

83 page PDF


83 page PDF


Understanding forced marriage in Scotland
3: Level and profile of service use relating to forced marriage in Scotland

83 page PDF


3: Level and profile of service use relating to forced marriage in Scotland

A survey was developed to establish the level and profile of service use relating to forced marriage in Scotland. The survey comprised 26 open-ended and multiple choice questions regarding the number of forced marriage cases organisations came across between 2011 and 2014 (to capture pre- and post- FMPO introduction). It also captured information regarding the characteristics of victims and perpetrators, the response or support organisations were able to give (if any), and which services organisations may have referred victims on to (if any). It also asked about individuals' confidence in identifying and responding to cases of forced marriage, and what actions could help to improve this. Survey participants were given the following definition of what constitutes a 'case' of forced marriage:

A forced marriage ( FM) is where one or both spouses do not (or cannot) fully and freely consent to the marriage, and duress is involved. For the purposes of this study, a 'case' of FM can either be the threat of, or the actual occurrence of a forced marriage. We are interested in reported cases from 2011-14 even if the forced marriage took place outside of this time frame.

3.1 Respondents

The survey was sent out to 293 recipients in total, including 193 secondary schools across the six study areas of Aberdeen City, Dundee, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Glasgow City and Highland, in addition to 53 domestic abuse (mostly Women's Aid) organisations, 37 minority ethnic organisations, and 9 support organisations across Scotland nationally. 109 organisations completed the survey in total, of which 54 were secondary schools, 36 domestic abuse organisations, 11 minority ethnic organisations and 8 general support organisations. See figure 1 for sample characteristics and Appendix 1 for full details.

Figure 1: Survey recipients and respondents
Figure 1: Survey recipients and respondents

Only 54 out of 193 schools and 11 out of 37 minority ethnic organisations surveyed responded. This hampered our ability to draw conclusions regarding prevalence rates of forced marriage (see Prevalence section below for details).

3.2 Prevalence

Survey data at the local-level was intended to be used in conjunction with national-level data to estimate a national prevalence of reported cases of forced marriage in Scotland. Unfortunately, due to the low response rate of schools (54 out of 193), in addition to the low number of cases attributable to the six study areas (N=95 over the four study years), the statistical analysis required to do this was not possible. When examining the characteristics of cases, all local-level data (relating to 6 cases reported by schools and other local organisations) has been removed from the analysis, as it is likely that cases may also be represented in the national-level sample.

Between 2011 and 2014 there were 191 cases of forced marriage reported by survey respondents, with all cases coming from just 20 of the 109 participating organisations. Case occurrence was fairly equal across the four years, with the most recent year (2014) representing the highest number of cases (n=56). The majority of cases (92%) were reported by domestic abuse organisations, with the remaining cases (8%) reported by schools, minority ethnic organisations and general support organisations.

Figure 2: Reports by year and by area
Figure 2: Reports by year and by area

As shown in Figure 2, Edinburgh had the highest reporting rate of the six study areas, with 75 cases spread fairly evenly across the four years [4] , followed closely by Glasgow (who reported 72 cases). Aberdeen reported 17 cases (also fairly evenly across the four years), Dundee reported 3 cases, and East Renfrewshire and Highland reported no cases. The remaining 24 cases could not be linked to a specific study area, as they were reported by national organisations covering multiple or non-study areas. See Appendix 1 for a full breakdown.

Additionally, to understand the picture in Scotland, a crude measure was used to generate a rough idea of how many reported cases of forced marriage one might expect. Using Kazmirski's et al (2009) figure of 5,000-8,000 reported cases of forced marriage in 2008 in England and Wales as a benchmark, we produced a ratio for numbers of reported cases of forced marriage compared to the minority ethnic population in England & Wales (as of 2011 census). On the assumption that this ratio would apply to Scotland, we compared it to the 2011 Scottish minority ethnic population and found that the expected number of cases was between 129 and 207 per year (lower and upper limits respectively). This indicates that the number of reported cases in Scotland is much lower than expected. Clearly, this is a rough and ready range, and assumes the same rate of forced marriage cases as in England, so should be treated with caution.

3.3 Characteristics of cases

Due to the small numbers of reported cases within each individual year and the fact that not all cases had information on victim and perpetrator characteristics fully identified and/or recorded, characteristics are reported for the full study period for all areas, rather than by individual year or area. Victims were female in nearly all cases, with the remaining cases indicating the gender was 'unknown'. No reports involving male victims were recorded. This may be at least partly explained by the fact that the majority of cases were reported by Scottish Women's Aid organisations, compared to other types of organisations surveyed. The majority of victims were aged between 18 and 25 years of age at the time of their forced marriage, with under 18s representing around a quarter of cases where the age was known. Of particular concern is that in around 1 in 10 of the cases where age was known, the victims were children under 16 years of age. The majority of cases involved victims of Pakistani origin, with Indian and Black African representing the next largest proportions. A small number of cases were reported involving White victims. See Figure 3 (and Appendix 1) for a full breakdown of victim demographics.

Only four cases involved victims with disabilities and just three cases indicated sexual orientation of the victim as a factor. Around two thirds of perpetrators were parents, with just under a quarter being members of victims' extended family. Perpetrators were also siblings and family friends.

Figure 3 - Victim demographics
Figure 3 – Victim demographics by gender, age and ethnicity

The nature of cases

More cases related to threats of forced marriage rather than cases where the marriage had already taken place, although in around a quarter of cases, the specifics were unknown. Cases were more likely to involve UK nationals marrying non- UK nationals than UK nationals marrying other UK nationals. However, almost half of cases where nationality was recorded were marked as 'other', meaning they most likely involved non- UK nationals marrying other non- UK nationals. For the vast majority of cases, the country in which the forced marriage took place or was due to take place was 'unknown'. For those where the country was recorded, they most commonly happened in Pakistan, followed by Scotland, India, African countries and other parts of the UK. See Figure 4 (and Appendix 1) for details.

Figure 4 - Case characteristics
Figure 4 – Case characteristics


The initial reason for referrals tended to be forced marriage, although domestic abuse and use of violence against victims was also commonly cited. Cases came to light via a number of other routes such as honour-based violence ( HBV), female genital mutilation ( FGM), sexual abuse, child abuse, and conflict in the home. Referrals were also made when a range of other initial 'indicators' of a possible forced marriage were identified, such as poor school attendance, victim mental health problems and a need for help with asylum claims, refuge accommodation and welfare/benefits. For the most part, referrals tended to come from other organisations (53%) or from victims themselves (29%). Friends (15%) and family (3%) also referred victims to services.


The number of cases of forced marriage reported over the four study years was relatively low (191), with numbers being generally consistent across the years. Cases tended to involve young female victims in their late teens to early twenties, from mainly South Asian backgrounds, being threatened or coerced into marriage by their parents. Victims came to the attention of services either through self-referral or, more likely, by other statutory services due to connected issues such as domestic abuse, mental health issues, and honour-based violence. Better recording of cases by agencies would have yielded more detailed information. Reporting rates appear to be lower in Scotland than one might expect given comparable data from England and Wales.

Only two minority ethnic organisations reported having received cases of forced marriage between 2011 and 2014. The low number of cases reported by schools is also reflected in the relatively small proportion of children under 16 years identified by specialist services.


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