Scottish government encourages GPs to be wary of forced marriages

GPs are urged by the Scottish government to look out for cases of forced marriage, in order to provide a lifeline to safety.

Unexplained injuries could be a sign and symptom of forced marriage
Unexplained injuries could be a sign and symptom of forced marriage

This advice comes a year after new legislation providing greater protection to victims of forced marriage was introduced in Scotland.

Last year, the Scottish government also published Multi-Agency Practice Guidelines on how best to respond to forced marriage, and in October 2012, Scotland’s largest health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, provided specific guidelines for health professionals and social workers on how to spot cases of forced marriage.

GPs have been told to look out for various signs and symptoms of forced marriage, which may present many of the same problems evident in those experiencing domestic abuse.

This includes: unexplained injuries, chronic pain, mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders or self-harm. For women, there might be signs of an early or unwanted pregnancy or distress that they haven’t fallen pregnant. 

It has been said that while the majority of victims are women, particularly from the South Asian community aged between 13-30 years of age, other groups are also at risk. These can include men and women with physical or learning disabilities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, who are forced to marry because of their sexual orientation.

Although figures for Scotland are not necessarily high (last year, support organisations in Scotland dealt with around 59 cases), many forced marriages are unreported or the individuals involved do not seek help.

The advice given to GPs is that if they do come across someone in their workplace that they think may be in a forced marriage or under the threat of one, they should visit or call 0800 027 1234 for information, support and protection.

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