NGO Charities warn that thousands of victims across the UK live in conditions matching modern slavery. Under the freedom of information act, figures collected by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation revealed 3,546 reports between 2014 and 2016.

In 2017, another NGO charity, Karma Nirvana took approximately 9,000 calls on the forced marriage helpline, with 200 calls made by children aged 15 or under. The charity took 700 calls from under 18s.

A landmark case in Birmingham saw the first conviction of forced marriage being jailed, after a mother trafficked her 17 year old daughter to Pakistan and forced her to marry a man 16 years her senior. The man had previously raped and impregnated the teenage girl whilst she was 13, during an earlier visit in 2012.

Campaigners suggest using modern slavery legislation could lead to an increase in convictions for a crime that proves notorious to prosecute, as victims are usually reluctant to testify against family members. The Birmingham case mentioned previously is the first of its kind where a victim has given evidence against her family regarding forced marriage.

Advisor to the United Nations Parosha Chandran said: “The modern-day meaning of slavery doesn’t require that you own somebody. It means you treat someone as if they were your property. Its crucial authorities acknowledge this in forced marriage cases. There has been no consideration that a forced marriage involves elements of slavery – where a person is treated as if they are the property of the family they were married into.”

Relating to the Birmingham conviction, Chandran stated if a person is taken abroad under false pretences for the purposes of exploitation, this is human trafficking.

Had the mother been convicted under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, not only would she have faced a severe penalty, the judge should have considered ordering her to pay compensation to her daughter for allowing her to be raped at 13 and forcing her to marry the perpetrator at 18.

Founder of Karma Nirvana Jasvinder Sanghera welcomes debate of forced marriage as part of the human trafficking agenda: Sanghera stated in relation to the Birmingham case that when victims move between countries for the purpose of exploitation, the human trafficking link is clear.

Sanghera stated: “Victims seldom recognise abuse as unlawful because they are groomed. Victims aren’t thought of as slaves; but if you have not consented marriage and you will be raped in that marriage – that is sexual slavery. Although government leaders have referred to forced marriage as a form of slavery, calls to translate this into policy have been unsuccessful.”

UK Home Office accused of turning blind eye to forced marriages to grant visas

Figures realised under the freedom of information act has revealed that the Home Office received 175 inquiries about victims trying to block spouse’s visas last year.  The Home Office received reports of women wishing to block visas for men they have been made to marry in countries abroad.  Reports out of 175, 88 became full cases. 42 cases were still issued with 10 cases still pending. Data obtained by The Times revealed that Home Office officials dealt with 90 cases of victims trying to block visas, with almost half still being issued.

Karma Nirvana founder Jasvinder Sanghera described to The Times that immigration officials turn a blind eye, due to cultural sensitivities: “Even when officials know its forced marriage, they see tradition, culture or religion and they’re reticent to deal with it. They turn a blind eye.”

Laws were introduced in 2014, making forced marriage illegal in England and wales. Police can issue forced marriage protection orders to protect victims. Those found guilty of forced marriage can be jailed for 7 years in prison, with breaches of protection orders punishable up to 5 years.

A recently publish memoir of a survivor from honour based abuse Wings, is calling for government policy to recognise forced marriage as a form of modern day slavery, as accounts are harrowing similar. The writer, who changed her name by deed poll to protect family identity, stated “Forced marriage is not a cultural practice. It’s a form of child abuse and modern slavery and should be investigated and prosecuted as such.”

Forced Marriage in Yorkshire

The Yorkshire region accounts for 12.7% of cases dealt with FMU. The inner city secondary school Co-operative Academy in Hare Hills Leeds, started a metal spoon awareness programme for students, designed to alarm authorities about honour based abuse and forced marriage victims. The programme encouraged those who feared they may be taken abroad and forced to marry, to place a metal spoon in their underwear; to trigger metal detectors at airports. The ethos leader at the academy Harinder Kaur, stated the metal spoon is a practical way of raising alarms and alerting the authorities.

The school is in partnership with Karma Nirvana, campaigning against honour based abuse and forced marriage.  The metal spoon programme aimed to educate pupils who may not realise they are victims of forced marriage.

June 2018 saw the first British man granted a forced marriage protection order, in South Yorkshire. The teenage boy and his siblings were all granted protection, after receiving threats from his parents. Detective Inspector Suzanne Jackson explained in a statement that this is the first time South Yorkshire Police have issued a safeguarding order to protect a male victim from honour based abuse, the protection orders were put into place as a preventative tactic.

Honour based crime continues to go unreported. Many callers using charity helplines are British citizens; boys and girls, men and women. Others are brought to the UK by a British spouse, and are then exploited. Currently, forced marriage is not listed as an indicator of modern slavery under the national referral mechanism, nor is there prosecuting guidance linking forced marriage and slavery crime together.

If feel yourself or someone you know is in danger or potential risk, it is vital to seek free legal advice straight away- in order to protect and prevent the worst case scenario.

Parveen Ahmed achieved resolution accreditation in the field of forced marriage & honour-based violence.  Call our specialist today on 0113 200 7427 or alternatively receive your next steps forward.

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