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Leeds charity’s calls for vigilance over forced marriages

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Teachers are being urged to spot the signs of forced marriage and honour-based violence in the classroom.

Leeds-based charity Karma Nirvana is calling on schools across the city to monitor students who could be at risk of being forced into marriage and ‘disappear’ during the summer holidays.

The charity recently held a conference and invited all schools across West Yorkshire to help them spot the warning signs - but only TWO attended the session.

Jasvinder Sanghera from Karma Nirvana, who escaped her own forced marriage aged just 16, said: “Schools are at the heart of prevention.

“There will be many young people across West Yorkshire and the UK who will disappear during the summer holidays who may not come back or they could come back as someone’s wife or husband.

“The time for professionals to spot this is now.”

The charity’s helpline has dealt with more than 30,000 calls nationally since it was established in 2008.

But Jasvinder has warned they miss on average 221 calls a month because they don’t have the capacity to respond to every call.

The YEP revealed yesterday that West Yorkshire Police have received 108 reports of forced marriage and 113 reports of honour-based violence from across the region in one year.

She added: “We are going to see that demand even more now and we are just dealing with the tip of the iceberg.

“The perpetrators are the victim’s nearest and dearest.

“Often people go through with it for the sake of their families. It takes a lot of courage to report and it is our job to help give them the confidence.”

A campaign has been launched to raise awareness of forced marriage, which will become a crime from June 16.

*For support contact Karma Nirvana on 0800 5999247 or visit www.westyorkshire.police.uk/forcedmarriage.

‘DON’T BE SCARED, YOU NEED TO STAY STRONG’

Amina was forced into marriage at 19 after her father agreed to marry his daughter to another family.

The 29-year-old from Leeds said: “I felt it was my duty to do right by my family. I had no idea what marriage entails and I was naive.”

Amina was married in Pakistan and when she arrived home four weeks later she was pregnant.

Her husband arrived over a year later but he soon started to lash out at her.

She said: “The violence never stopped. He made me feel like I was worthless.

“I kept telling my parents over and over about this but he completely manipulated the situation. If the marriage broke down then so would the family.”

Amina found the courage to leave but her family kept urging her to go back to her husband.

She sought support from Karma Nirvana and now she is an ambassador.

She said: “Don’t be scared, our religion doesn’t allow this. Don’t let culture take over and you need to stay strong and put your foot down.

“It is a basic human right to be able to make your own choices.”

Now she is looking to a bright future with her two children and is also set to graduate.

 

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