The first UK roadshow aiming to stop South Asian youngsters being forced into marriages abroad is due to get under way.
Victims will tell their stories ahead of the school summer holidays – when the risk of forced marriages is worse. In June 2009, charity Karma Nirvana, which is running the tour, received 769 calls – double the monthly average. “We’ll be speaking to those responsible for safeguarding young people,” said the charity’s head, Jasvinder Sanghera.
”It is their job to spot anyone who might be at risk of a forced marriage. ”We want to equip them with the tools and confidence to deal with the issue.
“The tour is about being proactive and taking preventative action before the holidays.”
A home affairs select committee report in 2008 found that more than 2,000 students went missing from school registers in that year, with a large proportion of those thought to have been forced into a marriage. The government’s forced marriage unit also repatriates around 300 victims of the practice every year, with more than 40% of those it saves being under 16.
The two-hour roadshow will see survivors of forced marriages talk about some of their experiences. An explanation of how to use the Forced Marriage Act, which exists to prevent someone from being taken away against their wishes, will also be given. The legislation came into effect in 2008 and allows local authorities and members of the public to apply for an injunction if they think a child is at risk of being taken out of the country.
The tour is the first of its kind and Northampton will be first stop, followed by Leicester, Hull, Ealing/Southall, Hounslow, Richmond, Kingston Upon Thames, Middlesbrough, Kent and Newcastle. Mayah, 33, is a volunteer at Karma Nirvana and says the shared experience of the victims on the roadshow will be essential to its success.
She was kidnapped, taken to India and forced into a marriage after she fell in love with a Christian man. She spent six years in the marriage before managing to escape with the help of her doctor. ”We need to raise awareness of this cruel practice,” said Mayah. ”My ordeal has left me scarred forever. We need to put a stop to this practice before it ruins another life.”