Doctors to spot forced marriages

Doctors and nurses are encouraged to reach out to the victims of forced marriage under new government guidelines.

The Home Office has issued guidance for health professionals, designed to help them recognise victims and offer practical support.

It has been released in response to findings that victims do not feel health professionals can help them.

At the same time, health workers say they would like to do more and campaigners point out a doctor’s appointment can be one of the few occasions a victim of forced marriage can talk in private.

GPs, school nurses, midwives and A&E staff will be taught the warning signs of forced marriage and be trained to provide a supportive environment for victims to come forward.

Public health minister Caroline Flint said: “Forced marriage affects children and adults as well as men and women from a wide range of communities. An interview with a health professional may be the first and only opportunity victims have to tell someone about what is happening to them.

“This new guidance will help health professionals recognise the warning signs of forced marriage, understand the danger faced by victims and respond to their needs sensitively and effectively.

The guidelines have been launched jointly with the Foreign Office and Department of Health.

Foreign office minister Lord Triesman said the guidelines were part of his department’s ongoing efforts to tackle forced marriages. Guidelines have already been issued to social workers, police officers and teachers.

He said: “I hope that this new guidance will allow health professionals to have the necessary tools to equip themselves to deal with issues on forced marriage.”

Home Office minister Baroness Scotland continued: “Forced marriage is a violation of internationally recognised human rights standards and can never be justified, including on religious or cultural grounds.

“It is terrible for those women, children and men who find themselves in an often violent and abusive situation against their will. The government is determined to help the victims of forced marriages and health professionals form part of the crucial frontline work that plays such an important role in saving lives and reducing serious harm.”