When you hear the term "forced marriage" you probably picture a British Asian girl sent on a visit to the sub-continent under false pretences, then married to a local man and threatened with violence if she refuses….
Along with issues such as domestic violence and eating disorders, forced marriages have traditionally been perceived as having only female victims. While the bulk of resources should be dedicated towards helping females forced to wed, this should not be to the extent of neglecting male victims.
Positive East is a counselling service in east London which has given support to men who have been forced into marriage. One of those it helped is 25-year-old Arza, who was taken to Pakistan and forced into marriage at the age of 19.
He said: "I used to wear make-up and dress in women's clothes, and knew I was gay when I was a teenager. [My family] said my grandmother was ill, so we went to Pakistan. They said, 'If you don't marry, your mother will have a heart attack from the shock.' I was scared they would disown me and kick me out if I refused. I suffered from depression, mental health issues which were alcohol-fuelled. I kept saying to myself 'How do I lead both lives?' It was very difficult to get a divorce, my family wanted us to stay together. They wanted to protect their honour."
Another British Asian with a similar experience is Randeep, who was forced into marriage when he was 24. Now aged 30, he told Eastern Eye: "All the family went to India together, for a 'visit'. They said I had to get married. I felt isolated and under a lot of pressure. I told her, 'You will be spoiling the girl's life and my life'. She said, 'What will people think if you don't get married?' She only cared about izzat [honour]."
The government's Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) recently turned its attention to this issue by publishing a booklet for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. ….
Of the calls to the Forced Marriage Unit last year, 15% were from men…..