LONDON: Hundreds of gay and lesbian people of South Asian heritage are believed to be under pressure to marry someone of the opposite sex, police say.
West Midlands Police said a growing number are now contacting the force after being ordered to have a heterosexual wedding by their families.
The UK’s forced marriage unit heard from at least 30 LGBT people last year.
But they say more people are likely to be affected as being gay is often seen as taboo among south Asian communities.
This is supported by data from charities and LGBT organisations that have made referrals to the police.
A forced marriage is where one or both people do not consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used. In the UK, it is illegal and recognised as a form of violence against women and men.
The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be physical or emotional and psychological.
Det Sgt Trudy Gittins, from the West Midlands force, said the people coming forward from the LGBT community in recent months are from all walks of life.
“We’ve got professional well educated people who still feel that immense pressure because there’s a whole expectation that they will not bring shame on their family,” she said.
“Homophobia is rife in some communities and to be seen as being gay or lesbian or bisexual it can absolutely destroy the dynamic of that community and this person just has that burden every single day and it can cause a great deal of anxiety and distress and in some cases they also feel suicidal.”
Old fashioned attitudes
The Foreign Office and Home Office set up the Forced Marriage Unit in 2005. Figures show 30 LGBT people who contacted the unit last year were among the 1,428 people who asked for help.
But the government acknowledged the actual number of cases that involving LGBT people could be “significantly higher” as it did not explicitly ask people whether their sexuality was the trigger for the forced marriage.
The unit is now working with LGBT groups to encourage more victims to come forward and get support.