A Lifelong campaigner against forced marriage has launched an awareness drive for Leeds schools.
Jasvinder Sanghera, founder of the Leeds-based Karma Nirvana charity, who escaped her own forced marriage aged just 16, was at Allerton Grange School to launch the drive. It is part of her ongoing work to encourage the Government, schools, police and other agencies to focus on the issue as a child protection matter first and foremost.
Miss Sanghera told the YEP: “Victims always start their journey in school so their engagement is at the heart of prevention. There are real concerns about the lack of school engagement – and yet the majority of our victims are in British classrooms.
“We have highlighted to Government very worrying concerns about this and the real issues of missing children (absences) as being a link to a victim of forced marriage.”
The charity has written to schools across West Yorkshire and is hoping to engage with teaching unions.
Forced marriage becomes a criminal offence in May 2014, something which Miss Sanghera said she will “welcome with open arms”. “Many still treat these abuses as being part of culture and treat them differently or turn a blind eye out of fear in causing offence or being called a racist,” she said.
“There is a need for schools, as with Allerton Grange, to be proactive. My hope is that other schools across West Yorkshire will follow their lead and wake up to the fact that this engagement is at the heart of keeping young people safe.”
The YEP has reported previously that dozens of young women in Leeds have been made the subject of new forced marriage protection orders (FMPO) which work similarly to ASBOs. The city also landed third in a national league of shame based on so-called ‘honour’ crimes.