As a nation it is often difficult for us to understand the motivation that prompts families to put their daughters through forced marriages. Although we may never know the reasoning behind it, we can help to prevent the abuse that girls face from their families by working with education systems.
Following the criminalisation of Forced Marriages earlier this year, The Sharan Project is working with the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) to raise awareness of the issue and launch a nationwide campaign Right2Choose within four prominent universities in Central London and the West Midlands.
Last year the FMU dealt with over 1300 cases, 13.6% of all cases were from the West Midlands and 24.9% were from London. Women from South Asian backgrounds made up for 63% of all reported cases and 48% were of university age 18-25.
Polly Harrar, Founder of Sharan Project says:
“We know from our casework how prevalent this issue is within universities. Often female students are given the choice to have an education in exchange for marrying someone who has been chosen for them after graduation.
“Legislation alone is not enough to combat forced marriages, we must put an end to this by working with education bodies to spot the signs of forced marriage and empower those affected.”
The Right2Choose campaign is creating a student led support network for those at risk or affected by forced marriage to be able to speak with their peers, deliver training to staff to spot the signs and know where to go for specialist support and seek to develop web based policies for each university to embed within their safeguarding practices.
Those experiencing forced marriages often feel they have nowhere to turn and are completely unaware of the help available to them. Students and teachers can help to identify the signs early in order to protect young men and women before they are married off against their will.
Launching the campaign at the Canadian Embassy, His Excellency, Mr Gordon Campbell, UK High Commissioner for Canada, says:
“I fully support the SHARAN project and their work to tackle the issue of forced marriage in the UK. Early forced marriage is a fundamental denial of human rights and it is not only an issue in the UK but one that is widespread across the globe. All of us must do what we can to end it. Addressing it across education systems is a crucial step in bringing this appalling practice to an end.”