Urgent talks on plight of young women and men with learning disabilities who are offloaded by their families
Scores of young people with learning disabilities are being forced into marriages, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.
More than one in five of the forced marriages reported to the Government involve disabled people, but experts fear that the true scale of the problem could be far worse.
Last week, senior police officers, lawyers, social workers and campaign groups held urgent talks in London as the scale of the problem emerged.
The Foreign Office's Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 400 cases last year - and more than 80 of these involved people with learning disabilities.
Support groups believe that the stigma attached to disability in some ethnic communities, together with social and cultural isolation, is adding to the problem. They warn that forced marriage is being used as a way to ensure that children with disabilities will be looked after as ageing parents struggle to cope. A person with learning disabilities may also be seen as biddable by foreigners in search of a visa.
The majority of cases reported involve families from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. Spouses are not always told about the disability and only discover the truth when they first meet, often at the wedding, or even after.
Rape, domestic violence and abandonment are common consequences of such marriages as opportunities to escape or seek help can be limited, according to support groups.
A growing awareness of the problem has resulted in scores of community workers coming forward after a series of court cases brought under the Human Rights Act which ensures the right to marry freely.
And many care workers are reluctant to oppose the forced marriages for fear of being branded "culturally insensitive"
Mandy Sanghera, a social worker with Voice UK, a charity which helps people with learning disabilities, believes that the emphasis must be on protecting vulnerable individuals rather than on the communities which are failing them. …