“Firstly I believe we are at a point now where CEFM is increasingly being recognised as a problem in developing countries across Europe, and other places. The UK where I am from, is taking a lead role in protecting girls at risk and has for example established a special Forced Marriage Unit, a joint initiative between the Home Office and the Police. This unit provides services such as a national telephone helpline, direct intervention to protect girls at risk and awareness training to the different professional groups involved. Some groups have also been established to work on this at the European level. The issue of CEFM is already well documented in countries like Canada where the Government is very committed to addressing this issue. More recently CEFM is also being highlighted in the US and Australia. In the UK school children and staff are made aware of the issue and to be vigilant if friends disappear from school.
However one major factor is that we do not yet know the true extent of the problem amongst diaspora communities in Western countries due to the lack of reliable statistics. Perhaps this is not surprising, given we are dealing with a long standing, deeply ingrained phenomena which is both sensitive and illegal and is fiercely protected by the communities which practice it. Despite increasing awareness CEFM, it remains largely hidden from the Police and child protection agencies.
It must also be recognised that these statistics will only tell us the official numbers of cases reported to the Police, child protection agencies or NGOs. From my personal knowledge of growing up in an Asian community in England, these numbers will only likely represent the tip of the iceberg. Most girls would be too afraid to come forward to seek help or make complaints against their families or take them to court. Many girls may not even be aware that child protection agencies and other support structures exist.
Another factor why CEFM is not considered a problem in many western countries is that the absolute numbers of cases of CEFM in Europe, North America and other western countries are very small compared to Africa and South Asia so media attention is focused on the areas of highest prevalence. There may also be a lack of investment in research in western countries”.