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
7: Conclusions and recommendations

83 page PDF

835.0 kB

7: Conclusions and recommendations

Recommendation 1: Develop an innovative programme of further public/community awareness-raising activity, to prevent forced marriage and to encourage increased reporting

The survey found that reporting rates in Scotland are lower than might be anticipated, which indicates that increasing reporting rates should be a priority. In interviews with professionals and survivors, a lack of public awareness of forced marriage was cited as one of the key barriers to increasing reporting of forced marriage cases. Innovative public/community awareness raising activity that is directed at increasing understanding of forced marriage, and that also informs communities of what support is available and the consequences of using either civil and/or criminal legislation, is likely to be helpful in enabling victims of forced marriage to come forward. This might also be a useful intervention to prevent forced marriage from occurring. Police officers and social workers reported that communities are likely to be distrustful of such agencies, either because of negative prior experiences or negative perceptions of such agencies.

Public awareness-raising activities need to be tailored to specific groups within practising communities ( e.g. elders and parents or young people), and to take into account communities' experiences of dealing with statutory agencies. It is also important that the programme of awareness-raising activity is not restricted solely to minority ethnic community events, but also includes activity in other relevant settings, such as schools and colleges. Clearly, encouraging increased reporting needs to be accompanied by ensuring that agencies are able to respond appropriately to the potential increased demand for services.

Recommendation 2: Develop further regular training on forced marriage for a range of professionals (including teachers, social workers, police officers, legal professionals and mental health practitioners), and ensure appropriate staff attend and the learning is cascaded and applied

Alongside public awareness, another key barrier to responding to forced marriage was cited as an increased need for forced marriage training. This was found in the survey, policy analysis and in interviews with professionals. Perhaps more significantly, the survey results, policy analysis in some areas and interviews with some professionals suggest that a number of agencies and areas do not consider forced marriage a relevant issue for their organisation. Such a misconception is a clear barrier towards organisations identifying forced marriage as a training need, actively seeking to have their staff trained, encouraging attendance at training and proactively identifying training opportunities or creating their own in partnership with specialised, third sector organisations.

Although training on forced marriage has been widely available in Scotland, the fact that this was reported as a gap, or that organisations do not see it as within their remit, suggests that increased training is desirable. Whilst interview participants had a basic understanding of forced marriage, it was clear that many were unaware of how the forced marriage legislation works and their agencies role in responding to forced marriage. Further, the issues uncovered in this study relating to race anxiety need addressing via training.

Multi-agency working was generally reported as positive. However, difficulties were also cited relating to the different priorities accorded to forced marriage and the impact of differential power relations within multi-agency settings. In some cases the expertise of relevant third sector organisations was not being harnessed as it might. However, specialist third sector organisations reported very good working relationships with the Police, although concerns were expressed that the creation of Police Scotland may detract from the local relationships already established. From the account of the one survivor interviewed in the study who had pursued the FMPO route, it is clear that whilst the police and mental health services had been excellent in this case, the search for a solicitor with the relevant knowledge and skills was problematic.

It is therefore recommended that increased training for professionals in a multi-agency setting be developed, and this training should be mandatory. The training should address the following: understanding of forced marriage as a process of manipulation and control; working with 'race anxiety'; the complications of irregular immigration status; and the processes and implications of the available forced marriage legislation. Mandatory training for legal professionals is also recommended, as they are often not part of adult or child protection multi-agency fora. Senior staff should take responsibility for promoting this training, and ensuring appropriate staff attend and the learning is cascaded and applied.

Further training is also indicated for staff in third sector organisations, some of whom reported offering mediation despite the multi-agency guidance being explicit that practitioners must never attempt mediation in cases of forced marriage.

Recommendation 3: Support the continued development of specialist women's sector organisations

Of the 191 cases of forced marriage reported via the survey, it is noteworthy that all of these were reported by only 20 of the 109 respondents. This indicates that forced marriage cases are more likely to be brought to the attention of specific types of agencies, largely domestic abuse third sector agencies. However, this sector had the highest response rate (36 of the 54 surveyed responded) and so was well-represented in the respondent sample. Only two minority ethnic third sector organisations reported having received cases of forced marriage between 2011 and 2014, which might be explained by the fact that only 11 (out of 37 surveyed) responded. Despite the low proportion of schools who responded to the survey (54 out of the 193 surveyed), schools still comprised a large proportion of the respondent sample, yet the number of cases reported by them is low. We were able to get data from only one social services area, and no police data has been made available. Hence, the reported cases are largely from the third sector and schools.

With these caveats, it is concluded that domestic abuse agencies clearly have a central role to play, and those agencies with specialist knowledge of forced marriage especially so.

Recommendation 4: Support the development of forced marriage policy in local authority areas, in order to increase ownership and consistency of approach at a local policy level throughout Scotland

Complementing the survey results, the majority of professionals interviewed had little direct experience of supporting victims of forced marriage, but those that did had developed greater skills and understanding of the issues. This was also reflected at a policy level where there were differing levels of ownership and maturity of forced marriage policy and where a focus on learning from forced marriage cases was identified as a means of improving responsiveness. It is clear from the interview material that the police are seen as the key statutory organisation, but this ownership needs to be extended to encompass other statutory agencies, particularly local authorities. In both the policy analysis element of the study and in interviews with professionals participants drew heavily from the Scottish Government multi-agency guidance on forced marriage rather than on their own formal, localised policy. At a policy level, it is recommended that all Protection Committees are supported to develop their forced marriage policy to ensure consistency across Scotland.

Recommendation 5: Ensure that therapeutic and practical support is available to victims of forced marriage

The survivor narratives emphasised that victims who contact agencies for help require support for historic forced marriage as well as recent or ongoing situations, and that different types of intervention may be required for these two groups. Alongside legal remedies for forced marriage, therapeutic and practical support is essential. There may be a danger in current cases, that by focussing on legal interventions, therapeutic and practical support may be overlooked. Survivor accounts in this study also illustrate that suicidal ideation, self-harm (as elsewhere e.g. Bhugra & Desai, 2002; Chantler et al, 2003), eating disorders and depression are outcomes of the process of being forced to marry. This emphasises the need for therapeutic and mental health support and, therefore, for raising awareness of the impact of forced marriage among mental health staff.

Recommendation 6: Evaluate forced marriage interventions to develop better understandings of what types of forced marriage interventions work for whom

A wide range of interventions are currently offered to support victims of forced marriage, most commonly one-to-one support, central to which is risk assessment and safety planning. Person-centred approaches were often utilised and the need for therapeutic and practical support was also highlighted. Scottish Government guidance makes it clear that mediation should not to be attempted in forced marriage cases, but two third sector agencies offered mediation as they believed this was an effective intervention. In terms of the outcome of support offered, nearly half of survey respondents reported that support offered was effective but 32% were unsure whether the support offered was effective. The survivors' accounts and interviews with professionals demonstrate that each case of forced marriage is unique. However, it is possible to look across cases to identify commonalities which should be used as a basis of intervention.

The Scottish Government multi-agency practice guidance offers detailed background information on forced marriage, the appropriate legal frameworks, 'warning signs', 'one chance rule' and specific agency guidance. However, as yet, there is no specific forced marriage intervention and, as a substantial minority of organisations are unsure of the impact of support offered, it is recommended that forced marriage interventions be evaluated over a period of time, to develop better understandings of what types of forced marriage interventions work for whom.

Recommendation 7: Address the issues the research identified in relation to implementing forced marriage legislation

The findings show widespread support from professionals and survivors interviewed for civil remedies for dealing with Forced Marriage. A number of issues were identified with regard to the implementation of civil protection. These related to i) a lack of consensus about what constitutes 'sufficient' evidence to justify granting a Forced Marriage Protection Order; ii) the onus of responsibility being placed on the victim, particularly where the victim is an adult with capacity (see below); iii) confidentiality of the victim was not always being maintained. Victims' concerns about the potential for their whereabouts to be disclosed highlight the importance of ensuring that the victim's address is never shared with family, friends or community members ( e.g. by including it on the papers sent to the people against whom an FMPO is being made). This should be addressed in relevant guidance, protocols and training courses.

In relation to criminalisation, most professionals interviewed thought it sent a strong message to the public that forced marriage was unacceptable in Scotland. However, some professionals (even those who supported criminalisation) also raised concerns about the potential for forced marriage to 'go underground' as victims would not wish to criminalise their families. It is too early to say whether this fear is justified and none of the professionals interviewed had been involved in cases involving criminal allegations of forced marriage. All survivors welcomed legal protection but most were not supportive of criminalisation. However, one survivor who had pursued an FMPO stated that criminal procedures should be used, but only as a last resort.

Recommendation 8: Strengthen the statutory guidance relating to the Forced Marriage etc. (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act (2011) to make explicit local authorities' obligations to act in all cases of Forced Marriage

A key finding of the study relates to the need for a more robust response to adult victims of forced marriage who have capacity ( i.e. who do not meet the criteria to trigger access to adult protection set out in The Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007).

Local authorities clearly have the power to act in relation to adults with capacity experiencing forced marriage, under the Relevant Third Party provisions in section three of the Forced Marriage etc. (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act (2011). The issue is that they do not, however, appear to be exercising these powers consistently.

It is therefore recommended that the existing statutory guidance be strengthened, to make it clear that local authorities are obligated to provide support (legal or other) when any adult at risk of forced marriage is identified. Hence, should any adult (regardless of capacity) experiencing forced marriage contact the local authority for support, this should trigger appropriate protection under the Relevant Third Party provision. This should also apply if other agencies contact the local authority on the adult's behalf. Monitoring the impact of strengthening the guidance will aid future policy and legislative development.

Recommendation 9: Improve record keeping of cases of forced marriage, as information about cases is key to developing learning and for future policy development

Age and ethnicity were unknown for around a quarter and a fifth of cases respectively, and data from many other variables was missing indicating that better recording of cases is necessary. Consistency of recording across agencies will enable better use to be made of data for future research and policy development.


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