Tony Diver: Forced marriage is an issue which slips under the radar

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Living between the quiet hedgerows of sleepy Suffolk, it’s difficult to believe that people around us could be the victims of something like forced marriage.

If you know what forced marriage is, the thought that comes to mind is probably of a community far removed from your own; possibly Asian; almost certainly of an inner-city environment.

Listening to Aneeta Prem, the founder of Freedom, a charity which fights for the protection of vulnerable people in the UK, it’s apparent this is simply not the case.

The issue, it seems, is not that people think that forced marriage is acceptable, they simply aren’t aware that it’s going on around them.

An important distinction to make is between forced marriage and arranged marriage – they’re not the same. Arranged marriage is simply a proposed relationship by a family member or parent, which people have the opportunity to decline. Forced marriage, on the other hand, is vastly different and more sinister: There’s definitely no choice involved.

As a teenager, it’s unimaginable to think that I could be forced to give up my A-levels, friends and family to go and live with a stranger who has compete control over my life. Forced marriage is often linked to physical and sexual abuse and, most tragically, to suicide.

But the most shocking part of this is that it is happening around us. There have been over 200 cases in the county since 2009 – it’s something which largely slips under the radar.

I spoke to Aneeta about what others can do.

“One of the things that young people can learn is that they do have a responsibility to help and report it – be it forced marriage, mental health, or any issue. Doing nothing is not an option,” she said.