The government has released figures which suggest a rise in the number of men being forced into marriage because their families know or suspect they are gay.

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) says it received over 220 reports of men being forced into marriages last year, up from 134 in 2008, an increase of 65 per cent.

According to the FMU, such incidents traditionally increase during the summer, when holidays abroad are taken.

Most victims are aged between 15 and 24 and the majority of cases involving men are linked to Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

While the vast majority (86 per cent) of victims are female, the FMU says that men are forced into marriage for reasons such as controlling behaviour, protecting family reputations and securing visas.

It says it has received over 80 reports of men being forced into marriage so far this year with a number of cases linked to sexuality.

However, these cases are likely to be the tip of the iceberg, as it is estimated many incidents go unreported.

Equality minister Lynne Featherstone said: “When young men are forced into marrying women it can be because they are gay or bisexual, or their families suspect that they are. This kind of abuse must not be tolerated.

“Adults working with young people need to be alert to young men who may be vulnerable to forced marriage, as well as women, and report any concerns to the Forced Marriage Unit.”

Tim Sigsworth, chief executive of the Albert Kennedy Trust, a charity for homeless LGBT youth, recently reported a rise in the numbers of young gay Muslims contacting it for help.

He said: “The impact for many young gay and bisexual men facing a forced marriage is twofold.

“They not only experience a sense of loss from the rejection or ejection by their family and possibly community, but they may also be struggling to come to terms with their sexual orientation without the love, support and guidance which parents may have offered them in other areas of their lives.”

Male and female victims of forced marriage, or others acting on their behalf, can apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order.

An order can be used to prevent someone being forced into marriage or to protect a person where a marriage has already taken place. People can be arrested if they do not comply with the orders.

Since coming into force in November 2008, over 150 orders have been taken out.