Foiling forced marriages


Forcing girls to marry at a young age, often to much older men, is unfortunately something that still occurs in some parts of the world. The girls have no say in the process. Fortunately, the practice is disappearing and is almost completely gone in many nations. But even in those nations where the practice is not allowed, some immigrant parents seek to perpetuate it by sending their daughters back to the home country purely for the purpose of getting them married, not telling them the true purpose of the trip and letting them think it is for a family function or a holiday or to see relatives. Once they are back in that country, there is little the girls can do to stop the wedding since they are now alone in a strange country.

This report in The Guardian gives some numbers.

Last week ministers warned that young people were at the highest risk of being taken abroad for a forced marriage during the school holidays. The government’s forced marriage unit received 400 reports between June and August last year, out of an annual total of 1,500.

No one knows for sure how many Britons are forced into marriage each year. Estimates range from 1,500 to 5,000. More than a third of those affected are thought to be aged under 16.

“Children go out of people’s consciousness over summer because they are away for such a long time,” she told the Guardian. “The victim may think they are going away to a family wedding, not knowing it is actually their wedding. And when they go they are often gone for a long time and don’t come back until they are pregnant.”

A charity group in the UK called Karma Nirvana is advising young women who suspect that they might be being sent home for this or other nefarious purpose to put a spoon in their underwear when they get dressed for the trip.

Speaking to the AFP news agency, Natasha Rattu, Karma Nirvana’s operations manager, said that when worried youngsters ring the charity’s helpline, “if they don’t know exactly when it may happen or if it’s going to happen, we advise them to put a spoon in their underwear.

“When they go through security, it will highlight this object in a private area and, if 16 or over, they will be taken to a safe space where they have that one last opportunity to disclose they’re being forced to marry.”

At least this is a positive use of the intrusive airport security apparatus.

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