Most school children look forward to the summer holidays, a time of care free fun and laughter but for some it is a time of dread.

The summer holidays is peak time for boys and girls to be taken abroad and forced in to marriage.  Statistics show that 80% of UK forced marriages happen during the school holidays. As the school has no contact with the children it is an ideal opportunity for families to go abroad, get their child married and then return. Sadly some children will not return, particularly those aged 16/17 that have left mainstream education. Children are taken on holiday for a family wedding, perhaps not realising that the wedding is their own.

A school in Leeds has come up with an innovative idea of how to protect their pupils from forced marriage during the holidays. The Co-Operative Academy in Leeds have been giving out spoons to children with instructions to hide the cutlery in their underwear if they fear they are being taken abroad to marry. The spoons will set off the metal detectors at the airport, the children will be taken to one side, away from their parents/guardians giving them the chance to speak freely and ask for help.

The charity Karma Nirvana was set up 25 years ago to help those affected by “honour” based abuse. The charity has been working closely with the school in Leeds responsible for the pioneering cutlery idea. Jas Sanghera from the charity stated “the summer holiday is the ideal time for parents who want to take their child abroad to be married because the school won’t be looking for where they are.

July and August is typically the busiest time for the government’s Forced Marriage Protection Unit. The Unit has praised the spoon technique however, has highlighted that it is not a “bulletproof” method. The Unit has called upon communities to take action before the children reach the airport.

The Forced Marriage Protection Unit uses the term ‘victim’ to include:

people thought to be at potential risk of future forced marriage, those currently going through a forced marriage, and those who have already been forced to marry”

The 2017 statistics published in March 2018 showed that out of the 1,196 possible reported cases of forced marriage, a quarter involved victims below the age of 18 years. One of five of those involved male victims. The countries with the highest number of cases were Pakistan (439), Bangladesh (129), Somalia (91) and India (82). There were 120 instances without an overseas element, with the potential or actual forced marriage taking place here in the UK. The North West of England was number 4 in table of regions receiving the most advice or support on forced marriage, London was top with the most reported cases.

The total number of cases reported in 2017 was down by 19%, however official say that is not a sign that forced marriage is on the decrease. Forced marriage is a hidden crime and is frequently not reported. A spokesperson for the NSPCC has stated they get calls from children as young as 13 who are worried about being forced in to marriage and yet will not speak out as they fear being ostracised by the community.

The assistance is there to protect all those who fear or who have been forced into marriage.  Children who believe they are at risk are urged to get help. Forced marriage is a criminal offence and the Forced Marriage Protection Unit is there to protect victims. In the alternative, children can contact Karma Nirvana or the NSPCC to speak confidentially.

In addition to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act which made the act of forced marriage unlawful, the family court can make a Forced Marriage Protection Order for victims. The Family Court can act on suspicion and do not need evidence that the marriage is to take place. Therefore is it imperative that if an adult suspects anything, whether that be a health professional, teacher, religious leader or a concerned neighbour they should seek help.

Farleys can assist, if you yourself feel pressured in to marriage or you are worried about a child or an adult who may be forced, particularly during the summer holidays do not delay. Contact us immediately for an urgent confidential appointment. Our specialist team understand the unique, particularly sensitive and difficult circumstances. Contact us on 0845 287 0939 or submit your enquiry online today.