Publication - Research publication

Understanding forced marriage in Scotland

Published: 30 Jan 2017

Research carried out to better understand forced marriage in Scotland.

83 page PDF

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83 page PDF

835.0 kB

Understanding forced marriage in Scotland
2: Methods

83 page PDF

835.0 kB

2: Methods

A mixed methods approach was utilised to address the research questions and was carried out primarily in the following five locations: Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Dundee, East Renfrewshire and Glasgow. This selection was based on areas where the non-white minority ethnic population exceeds the Scottish national average of 4%. In addition, a sixth area, Highland (which has a lower than national average of minority ethnic population), was included as a point of contrast. Our third sector partners, Scottish Women's Aid, Shakti Women's Aid (Edinburgh) and Hemat Gryffe Women's Aid (Glasgow), facilitated recruitment and provided invaluable practice experience. An advisory group of key agencies was also established who commented on the research instruments and preliminary findings. Ethical approval for the study was obtained from the University of Central Lancashire's ( UCLAN) Psychology and Social Work Ethics Committee.

The definition of a forced marriage case used in the research was '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. In this study, a 'case' of FM can either be the threat of, or the actual occurrence of, a forced marriage. We are interested in cases reported in the period 2011-14, even if the forced marriage took place outside of this time frame'. This is the definition that has been used in previous forced marriage studies (see Hester et al, 2008; Kazmirski et al 2009).

2.1 Research question 1: Level and profile of service use

Surveys that generate quantitative data are generally recognised to be the most appropriate method to establish the level and profile of service use. A survey was therefore developed which had a national and local element. The local element refers to the six study areas mentioned above. In these areas the survey was sent to secondary schools and women's organisations. We had planned to send the survey to child and adult social services in the six study areas and to Police Scotland, but lengthy permission and access procedures meant that we were only able to send the survey to one local authority area within the time frame of the study. To establish a wider, national Scottish picture, local Scottish Women's Aid organisations and minority ethnic organisations throughout Scotland were sent the survey, as was Police Scotland. Minority ethnic organisations included women's organisations, mental health organisations, and support, rights and equality organisations. We also sent the survey to a disability group, an LGBT group, and generic victim support organisations. In addition, we had hoped to analyse redacted Forced Marriage Protection Orders ( FMPOs), but permission for this was not given as the material was considered to be too sensitive.

The survey comprised 26 open-ended and multiple choice questions, and was designed to capture information from both local and national organisations on reported cases of forced marriage from 2011-2014, about the numbers of people affected by the issue of forced marriage, victim and perpetrator characteristics (gender, age, ethnicity), the nature of services available to support them and the organisational responses to and awareness of forced marriage and its various legal remedies. It also asked about the organisation's confidence in identifying and responding to cases of forced marriage, and what further interventions they perceived as being required to better respond to forced marriage. The intention was that, by gaining a greater understanding of the extent of the problem, the nature of services available, and the awareness and use of legislation, appropriate changes to policy and practice that will further the support provided to victims could be recommended.

The survey was distributed via Survey Monkey in December 2015 and again in January and early February 2016. The initial response rate was poor and so follow up via telephone contact was started in late February. In total 293 surveys were distributed of which 109 organisations completed the survey. For organisations who had not dealt with any cases for forced marriage, the survey took five minutes to complete but this increased to thirty minutes depending on how many forced marriage cases they had come across. Whilst the time factor may have been an issue, the bigger issue is to with the generally low response rates to email surveys, particularly where there is no prior relationship or contact and perceptions of how salient the topic is to respondents (Sheehan, 2001). When non-respondents were followed up by telephone, it became apparent that many organisations did not see forced marriage as their responsibility or an issue that they had come across.

Despite these issues, the response rate achieved in this study allows safe conclusions to be reached, as we ensured that we minimised non-respondent bias. However, we did not receive sufficient numbers of reported cases in the six case study areas to warrant a local breakdown by area or to conduct a prevalence study using the methodology used by NatCen in their 2009 study of forced marriage in England (Kazmirski et al 2009). Nevertheless, we are able to provide a robust analysis of reported cases of forced marriage in Scotland from 2011-2014. This is the first study that provides a detailed analysis of forced marriage in Scotland over a period of time.

2.2 Research question 2: Service responses to forced marriage

Two key approaches were used for this part of the study. The first was a policy analysis of available forced marriage policy documents and telephone interviews with adult or child protection policy leads in four of the six case study areas. In one area the violence against women lead was designated as the most knowledgeable about forced marriage, and in the last area no lead was identified. Interviews were recorded and a thematic analysis was applied to address the research questions.

The second approach involved semi-structured telephone interviews with professionals including police officers, social workers, legal professionals and third sector staff. The interviews inquired about four topic areas:

  • knowledge of forced marriage
  • experience of dealing with forced marriage including interventions offered, experiences of multi-agency working and barriers to working with forced marriage
  • knowledge and experience of using legal remedies to support victims of forced marriage
  • what further measures need to be in place to better support victims of forced marriage

Where permission was given, interviews were recorded and either transcribed or detailed interview summaries were produced from the recordings. Data analysis involved two researchers to check interpretations and develop the thematic framework. In large part, the analysis focused on the research questions but additional themes were also identified from the interview material.

2.3 Research question 3: Impact of interventions for forced marriage

This element of the study draws on the survey responses from organisations, interviews with professionals, and interviews with survivors. The survey and professional interview methods have been described above. For survivors of forced marriage, the study had planned to conduct a narrative analysis of redacted applications for forced marriage protection orders. The research team was unable to access redacted applications for FMPOs as the material was perceived to be too sensitive to be used for research purposes. The original plan had also been to interview victims whose experience of forced marriage was post 2011, to assess the take-up of civil or criminal legislation related to forced marriage. This was not possible in spite of having two key agencies who work with forced marriage as partners, creating a specific Facebook page, and extensive circulation (to over 70 organisations) of details of the study through a wide range of networks.

Eight in-depth interviews were conducted with victims of forced marriage, and their experiences of forced marriage spanned from ongoing situations to twenty years ago. Four of the eight victims were identified by our third sector partner agencies, one survivor was recruited via another survivor (snowballing), another was via a law centre and the other two were recruited via other Scottish Women's Aid local organisations. Victims were asked about their experience of forced marriage, help-seeking strategies and responses to asking for help, family relationships prior to and after the forced marriage, the impact of the forced marriage on them and their views about civil and criminal legislation in regarding forced marriage. Interviews were recorded and transcribed and analysed thematically. A separate chapter is dedicated to survivors to ensure that their voices are central to future developments.


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