Karma Nirvana, the charity that supports victims of forced marriage, is running a series of road shows to raise awareness about young people at risk of being forced into marriage. Survivors will be touring the country to speak out against the practice and give advice to police officers, care workers, health professionals and teachers on how to spot the warning signs that might indicate whether a child is in danger of being forced into a marriage abroad.
However, according to the Independent, police chiefs in Birmingham and West Yorkshire are refusing to take part in the road shows, calling for a “seminar type” meeting instead. This shows little regard for the timing of the road shows, which are taking place in June just before the long holidays when many victims are taken abroad. Calls to the charity more than double in June and most of the callers are from the Midlands and Yorkshire, where there is a large Asian population.
Jasvinder Sanghera, the founder of Karma Nirvarna, told the Independent:
“I think the indifference of these two police force’s request speaks volume of the way forced marriages and honour based violence is handled in these areas,” she said. “We never asked Northampton’s chief constable to come along but he did because he was keen to take a stance. If we are to change the attitudes of people on the front lines, police officers on the ground need to see clear leadership from their senior officers. I’ve chosen to speak out because I’m tired of my team saying they’re not getting good enough responses from these areas.”
Institutions such as the police have a duty to protect those at risk. It annoys me that forced marriage is given so little priority and thought of as a cultural thing that should be left alone. I suspect that the police in West Yorkshire and Birmingham have alot on their plates and feel that events like this should be the responsiblity of the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit, but it shocks me that they would refuse to take part. Karma Nirvana cites a Home Affairs Select Committee Report stating that over 2,000 girls went missing from the school register. How the disappearance of so many girls cannot be noticed by authorities is beyond me.