Imagine yourselves in a situation where your whole family and community are pressuring you to do what you feel you cannot do.
Imagine your own family disowning you and banishing you from everything you have ever known.
Imagine loosing your identity.
Imagine at 15 years old being taken away from your friends and schooling.
Everyday, many children, women and men live their lives like this because of forced marriages and honour-based abuse.
Most people have a pre conceived idea that forced marriage is simply the family choosing a suitable partner.
However, this is not the case as most forced marriages do not consider if the partners involved want to marry but merely how suitable and beneficial they are regarding social ranking.
Forced marriage is very different to an arranged marriage.
An arranged marriage has the consent of both parties and is a valued tradition, but a forced marriage is conducted without the valid consent of both parties where duress is a factor. Duress includes emotional pressure and abuse as well as physical abuse. It is an abuse of human rights and is a form of domestic violence.
At Karma Nirvana we receive 15 new cases a week. The government’s Forced Marriage Unit at the Foreign Office deals with 300 cases a year, consisting of both young men and women (about 15% of the victims are male) aged between 11 and 39 years. Most are aged 15 to 24 with 30% being minors.
This takes place everyday throughout the world and including the UK. Many incidents are not reported due to the repercussions in their own communities. It is not specific to one community. Honour-based violence cuts across all cultures and communities, particularly South Asian, Turkish, Afghani, Kurdish, Iranian, African, Middle Eastern, south and eastern European. It exists in any culture that is heavily male-dominated.
Both forced marriages and honour-based violence/abuse are hidden problems and are under-reported. The abuse ranges from being monitored and controlled, imprisoned in the home to murder.
This problem is only going to go away through re-education alongside prosecution. The behaviour is not natural, it has been nurtured from a belief system passed down from generation to generation. Like slavery it should no longer have a place in modern society. Throughout history there have been practices in all cultures which we now deem barbaric, this is one.
To help support agencies and victims Karma Nirvana is launching the Honour Network on the 11 April, a national dedicated helpline in which trained survivors will be answering the calls. It is a resource for all agencies, potential victims and survivors.
Together we can lift the veil.
Anna Hardy, lead project researcher, community engagement, Karma Nirvana
Forced Marriage: Special report
If you have been affected by the issues discussed in this article please get in touch with Karma Nirvana on 01332 604098
This article appears in the 13 March issue under the headline “Lifting the veil”