Muslim gay men forced into marriage by families that refuse to accept their sexuality
Gay men are increasingly being forced into marriage because their families refuse to accept their homosexuality, the Government revealed today.
The Forced Marriage Unit says there has been a surge such cases over the past year.
The number of contacts with the Whitehall agency concerning male victims increased from 134 in 2008 to 220 in 2009, a rise of 65 per cent.
But officials believe the figures are still only 'the tip of an iceberg' as the problem is under-reported concerning both sexes.
Men accounted for just 14 per cent of the total number of forced marriage cases, numbering 1,682, referred to the FMU last year.
It is estimated that in reality there are more like 10,000 incidents of forced marriage involving British nationals each year and that up to 20 per cent are men.
The large majority of cases involve families from south Asia, particularly Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
Victims are often locked up, subjected to physical and sexual violence and forcibly removed to other countries if they refuse to comply with their families' wishes.
Men in particular frequently face being forced to marry because their families refuse to accept their homosexuality.
Other cases can revolve around property issues, securing visas or other family expectations.
Most victims are aged between 15 and 24.
But the FMU, a joint unit of the Foreign Office and Home Office, is concerned that many people fail to realise that it is an issue that even affects men.
With the approach of the summer holidays, when the danger of young people being taken out of the country against their will is particularly high, ministers sought to raise awareness.
Support is available from caseworkers at the FMU and victims, or people acting on their behalf, can apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order.
Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne said the Government wanted to help communities address the issue and urged victims to speak out.
"Boys and men who are forced into marriage find it harder to ask for help than women, but we are urging males affected by forced marriage to speak out and seek the help that is available to them," he said.
"Of course, women make up the majority of forced marriage victims and over 1,400 reports of women facing this abuse were dealt with by the unit last year.
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