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Forcing the issue

Created on Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011
by Michael Futers

There has been reluctance in some quarters to discuss forced marriages. It seems to me that this is due to a number of factors.

First, there is confusion about the difference between a forced marriage and an arranged marriage. In the latter families play a part in selecting a suitable match but the decision to marry remains with the two people concerned. In a forced marriage there is no consent, it is all about compulsion. Second, there is anxiety about commenting on the lifestyle of ethnic or cultural groups which may be different to our own. Whilst we should not comment on what we don’t understand, we should not let that obscure abuse. National charity Karma Nirvana doesn’t pull its punches, “Forced marriage is abuse not cultural.” And its staff do know what they’re talking about.Third, there is often a shared failure to deal properly with issues affecting children.The school summer holiday is a time when some youngsters are taken abroad and coerced into marriages against their will. Some will not return to continue their schooling in the autumn. It may well be a first trip abroad to the place where older family members came from. They may or may not speak the local language or understand what is going on. For some, getting married there will come as a complete surprise. Others may be afraid that it is going to happen. If a young person suspects that they are at risk of this they should leave a copy of their passport, the contact details of the person they are staying with and their flight details with a person they trust. They should also try and get support before they are taken abroad.Karma Nirvana organises the Honour Network, a project designed to support victims and survivors of forced marriage and honour based violence. The Honour Network Helpline is 0800 5999 247. The Forced Marriage Unit also offers support to anyone who has been forced into or is afraid they are going to be forced into a marriage. It can help people in the UK or abroad. Its helpline is 0207 008 0151.We shouldn’t hide our heads in the sand, but get to grips with this issue and protect young people from abuse. First, there is confusion about the difference between a forced marriage and an arranged marriage. In the latter families play a part in selecting a suitable match but the decision to marry remains with the two people concerned. In a forced marriage there is no consent, it is all about compulsion.

Second, there is anxiety about commenting on the lifestyle of ethnic or cultural groups which may be different to our own. Whilst we should not comment on what we don’t understand, we should not let that obscure abuse. National charity Karma Nirvana doesn’t pull its punches, “Forced marriage is abuse not cultural.” And its staff do know what they’re talking about.

Third, there is often a shared failure to deal properly with issues affecting children.

The school summer holiday is a time when some youngsters are taken abroad and coerced into marriages against their will. Some will not return to continue their schooling in the autumn. It may well be a first trip abroad to the place where older family members came from. They may or may not speak the local language or understand what is going on. For some, getting married there will come as a complete surprise. Others may be afraid that it is going to happen. If a young person suspects that they are at risk of this they should leave a copy of their passport, the contact details of the person they are staying with and their flight details with a person they trust. They should also try and get support before they are taken abroad.

Karma Nirvana organises the Honour Network, a project designed to support victims and survivors of forced marriage and honour based violence. The Honour Network Helpline is 0800 5999 247. The Forced Marriage Unit also offers support to anyone who has been forced into or is afraid they are going to be forced into a marriage. It can help people in the UK or abroad. Its helpline is 0207 008 0151.

We shouldn’t hide our heads in the sand, but get to grips with this issue and protect young people from abuse.

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