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Why don’t we hear about forced marriages and gay men?


9:01 am - June 28th 2012

by Carl Packman    


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I recently reviewed a report for HuffPo that shows how London Police Services are underprepared for a rise in serious crime.

I didn’t have time to highlight some stats by the Metropolitan Police that show there were 298 Forced Marriage incidents / crimes reported in 2010 (including 333 actual and prospective victims – i.e. living in fear of forced marriage).

Of those, 35 victims were male, the rest were women (one unknown).

One of the inferences based on interview material, and the MPA’s own assessment, is that many of the men who are involved here are actually gay, and forced into marriage because of this.

The MPA didn’t check sexual orientation (save for one person) as part of the course, so it is hard to evaluate, but there has been some attention given to this type of marriage over the last few years – and it is deeply disturbing.

Back in 2010 the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) said there had been a surge in cases where men and boys are being forced into marriage because their families suspect they are gay or bisexual.

In that year the number of calls from men to the unit increased by 65%, from 134 in 2008 to 220 in 2009, and many of the cases involved families from south Asia, particularly Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

Comparable figures need to be shown today, to see whether this is an increasing problem, and to see who is targeted.

If the figures are worrying then this only adds to the report’s findings that there needs to be improved communication lines between the police authorities and victims.

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About the author
Carl is a regular contributor. He is a policy and research analyst and he blogs at Though Cowards Flinch.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Crime ,Equality

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Reader comments


1. Shatterface

If gay men are being forced into marriage then presumably so are straight men?

There seams to be an assumption that straight men are automatically supportive of forced marriage, but young ethnic minority men, gay or straight, are vulnerable to social sanctions or threats of violence.

There are many reasons young couples are forced into marriage. Homophobic parents are one example, their parents’ economic and social aspirations being another.

2. Chaise Guevara

Agreed, Shatterface. I’m never been sure why the conversation around forced marriage often focuses solely on female victims: could be that more women than men are unwilling participants, but could also be because forced marriages tend to be part of cultures that treat women as inferior, and we therefore assume without foundation that all the men involved must be happy to be getting a subservient wife. Or it could be that some people are allergic to discussing gender issues in any terms other than female victims and male perpetrators. Probably all three.

My concern about cracking down on forced marriage is that husbands (along with other family members) may be wrongly held to have been perps rather than victims/bystanders.

For all that the OP makes a strange implicit assumption, however, it’s a step in the right direction – and seeking to find and help victims of forced marriage is obviously a de facto good thing.

I’m never been sure why the conversation around forced marriage often focuses solely on female victims: could be that more women than men are unwilling participants…

Yes. The men tend to be older – indeed, often far older – and, I’d guess, are happy to acquire a young bride without having to expend too much effort on the business of locating, seducing and getting to know them.

4. Chaise Guevara

@ 3 BenSix

Do we have any figures – not on happiness with the arrangement, obv, but on relative ages? I agree that where a 40 y.o. man is in a forced marriage with a 20 y.o. women, it seems a lot less likely that the man is an unwilling participant than if they were both 20.

5. Shatterface

I think there’s some truth in the notion forced marriage often involve older men but I also think that where younger men are involved they are often unwilling participants in a deal made by, and for the benefit of, the couple’s parents rather than actual beneficiaries.

One of the reasons that I’m wary of terms like ‘patriarchy’ is they suggest sexism is done to women, by men, rather than it being a system into which both sexes are born and assigned specific roles.

The fact some men don’t fit these roles – gay men, in this example, or those of us who simply don’t conform to masculine stereotypes – while some women play a very active role in the subordination of other women (mothers who force their daughters into marriage, or disown ‘unruly’ daughters, or participate in FGM, etc) suggests the term ‘patriarchy’ is inadequate but when that matter is raised you’ll inevitably hear THINK OF THE MENZ! LOL!!

And ironically its only when we discuss gay issues that straight men have a pretext for discussing our own gender roles.

6. Chaise Guevara

@ 5 Shatterface

“One of the reasons that I’m wary of terms like ‘patriarchy’ is they suggest sexism is done to women, by men, rather than it being a system into which both sexes are born and assigned specific roles. ”

Agreed – it’s something of a thought-terminating cliche at times that prevents people from think about male victims and female guilty parties, not to mention the fact that sometimes a situation is too complicated to break down into “victim” and “guilty party” in any case.

“…but when that matter is raised you’ll inevitably hear THINK OF THE MENZ! LOL!!”

I’ve been resigned to seeing it arrive here since I read the thread title.

Forced marriage – gay men or young women or anybody else – is unacceptable. Utterly. Special pleading along the lines of “community stigmatisation” is fatuous, and just a feeble attempt to play the racism card. Immigrants from the sub-continent (and anywhere else that practises forced marriage) are welcome to import most elements of their culture to the UK, but not feudal and oppressive elements like forced marriage, genital mutilation, female subordination, tribal structures, etc.

There’s quite a big jump from there being one case of a gay man being forced to marry to “many” of the 35 men being gay. I accept that there may be a higher proportion than in wider society of gay men in this 35 but there is no evidence to suggest this is the case. The issue is that men are being forced to marry and not that they are being forced to marry a woman.

Lets turn the stats around and say that “many” of the 298 women must be lesbians and the statement suddenly sounds rather misogynistic.

It’s a blind leap to get from one person to many and until there is any evidence then it is purely speculation and this only serves to draw attention from the issue of forced marriage and onto sexuality which in this case is irrelevant.

9. Chaise Guevara

@ 8 Chris

“Lets turn the stats around and say that “many” of the 298 women must be lesbians and the statement suddenly sounds rather misogynistic. ”

Eh? Why? It would be bloody weird if none out of 298 women were lesbians, all else being equal.

10. (need a better name if i post here more)

So…..this neglected minority of blokes are also gonna be forced to carry and raise babies conceived through rape?
They aren’t and that’s why we “don’t hear about forced marriages and gay men”.

Good shitting grief guys…how the hell do you miss something like that? “Marriage is for procreation”, is how so many have framed it, so very many times but no, you go miss that point.

11. Chaise Guevara

@ 10

Ah, so injustice doesn’t matter if it doesn’t involve childbirth. Good to know!

@ CG

I didn’t say none of them were lesbians, some probably are. My point was that saying that because they don’t want to get married that most of them are lesbians is misogynistic. Why is it OK to say that because these men don’t want to get married that many of them are gay?

13. Chaise Guevara

@ 12 Chris

“I didn’t say none of them were lesbians, some probably are. My point was that saying that because they don’t want to get married that most of them are lesbians is misogynistic. Why is it OK to say that because these men don’t want to get married that many of them are gay?”

Who said that? The OP doesn’t. It says that the proposal that many of the men are gay is “based on interview material, and the MPA’s own assessment”. Which is admittedly vague, but it DOESN’T say that we can tell these men are gay because they don’t want to get married. So who is your post @8 aimed at?

@10

They aren’t and that’s why we “don’t hear about forced marriages and gay men”.

Pretty much on the money there, while gay men being forced into marriage IS a concern (and that’s granting that the OP’s assumption that all the male complainants were gay is even close to correct) it’s a somewhat low priority when compared to women, given that there’s 8 and a half times more women reporting forced marriages than men. Pick your battles, as they say.

15. Charlieman

I’d like to thank Carl Packman for the thoughtful post. The final paragraph simply asks for better data and communications which is realistic.

I won’t go into a rant about why the police might have problems determining the sexuality of crime reporters. Owing to the circumstances under which complaints are raised, I can understand why the question remains unanswered. It is also an irrelevant question.

The increasing number of people reporting that they are being coerced into marriage may be a good sign or a bad sign. We can only make a decision if we have a reliable estimate of the number of people who do not report coercion.


An aside query about Gaydar. I guess that a few of the crime reporters above mentioned enough in a witness statement for the investigators to assume that the reporter was gay, bi or uncertain. Fair enough. But I feel uncomfortable about police officers reporting or implying an opinion about sexuality based on their own perceptions of an individual.

16. Charlieman

To correct myself quickly…

@15. Charlieman: “It is also an irrelevant question.”

It is also an irrelevant question for the police, but perhaps may be pertinent to family reconciliation organisations.

I agree with CG etc about patriarchy – male victims of forced marriage should certainly be a cause for concern (gay or straight).

18. Chaise Guevara

@ 14 Cylux

“Pretty much on the money there, while gay men being forced into marriage IS a concern (and that’s granting that the OP’s assumption that all the male complainants were gay is even close to correct) it’s a somewhat low priority when compared to women, given that there’s 8 and a half times more women reporting forced marriages than men. Pick your battles, as they say.”

How do you envision recognising male victims as having a negative effect on overall attempts to address the problem (which I assume is what you’re getting at)?

To start with, simply admitting that male victims exist costs nothing and may encourage said victims to come forward.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why don't we hear about forced marriages and gay men? http://t.co/ee5EtPwl

  2. Nick Blackshaw

    Why don’t we hear about forced marriages and gay men? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/WK7Kcke6 via @libcon

  3. Margo Milne

    RT @libcon: Why don't we hear about forced marriages and gay men? http://t.co/z7jfssoP

  4. Steph Courtney

    Why don't we hear about forced marriages and gay men? http://t.co/ee5EtPwl

  5. Jason Brickley

    Why don’t we hear about forced marriages and gay men? http://t.co/o6DAkZPx

  6. Karen

    Why don’t we hear about forced marriages and gay men? http://t.co/TT7nN08K <<< Very troubling. People need to hear about this travesty 🙁

  7. Louise Hickman

    Why don’t we hear about forced marriages and gay men? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/5O0tWycs via @libcon

  8. Inky Sloth

    Why don’t we hear about forced marriages and gay men? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/5O0tWycs via @libcon

  9. Mums the Word

    Found this really interesting: http://t.co/uvPHw351

  10. Kate Sheill

    Similarly re so-called honour killings & other gbv RT @libcon Why don't we hear about forced marriages and gay men? http://t.co/xsjXgYlu

  11. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Why don’t we hear about forced marriages and gay men? http://t.co/u2acizGX

  12. Shifting Grounds

    Why do we never hear about forced marriage and gay people? http://t.co/e5LbWF2Y @carlraincoat

  13. Carl Packman

    Why don’t we hear about forced marriages and gay men? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/BUIAKMt1 via @libcon

  14. Andrew Ducker

    10% of people pushed into forced marriages are men. http://t.co/6DQJMXCm

  15. BevR

    Why don’t we hear about forced marriages and gay men? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/BU52Ppoy via @libcon





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