Forced marriages aren't something that is confined to overseas countries; statistics show that between 8,000 and 10,000 British citizens are forced into marrying another person each year.
In 2016, Virtual College worked closely with the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), which is a joint initiative from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office, to develop an e-learning course designed to educate people in preventing forced marriage through challenging cultural perceptions.
In the first few months of the government-commissioned course's launch alone, over 10,000 people accessed its content, demonstrating the demand for greater awareness of forced marriage in the UK.
Chaz Akoshile, joint head of the FMU, commented: "This is a wonderful e-learning tool that complements the other documents in existence."
So, what exactly constitutes as forced marriage and who is this e-learning course for?
A forced marriage is classed as a union of which either one or both parties do not consent to; in many cases, pressure or abuse may be used as a means of force.
Forced marriage was made a criminal offence in 2014, and since then 1,000 Forced Marriage Protection Orders have been issued to protect people from forced marriage and assist in repatriating victims.
Forcing a person to wed another is recognised as a form of violence and an abuse of human rights in the UK, with many victims suffering emotional and psychological abuse as a result of marital pressure. Financial abuse can also be a factor, whereby a victim's money is confiscated, making them dependent on their abuser.
Healthcare workers, airport staff and social workers are just some of the professionals who may come into contact with individuals being pressured into forced marriage. It is therefore important that they know how to spot potential signs that this is happening, and know how to intervene in a safe way, which is what the Virtual College Awareness of Forced Marriage course is designed to teach them. We also have a free resource pack available to help organisations raise awareness of the issue.
A survey carried out by Virtual College in 2016 found that 98 per cent of course participants felt very confident in dealing with forced marriage-related incidents after taking the course, with 97 per cent saying they'd recommend its content to another person.
In addition, half of the participants questioned said the Awareness of Forced Marriage course had changed the way they approached their work, which was exactly the desired outcome.
Find out more about this extremely topical e-learning course here.