Young women who have survived and escaped forced marriages will be speaking about their experiences at a series of roadshows around Britain.
The roadshows have been set up by the charity Karma Nirvana, which raises awareness about forced marriages and honour-based abuse and aims to help women in trouble.
As the school holidays approach, Karma Nirvana warn that the risk of forced marriages increases since girls, and boys, are taken out of the country to be married against their will.
According to Karma Nirvana, forced marriages are responsible for 12 ‘honour killings’ and many suicides every year in the UK.
The charity has set up a helpline for people who fear they may become, or already are, victims of forced marriages. It currently receives more than 400 calls a month. Callers to the helpline tend to be aged between 12 and 21, although one caller was just eight years old.
One of the victims speaking at the roadshows is Saima, who was forced into an abusive marriage in Pakistan when she was just 17. Karma Nirvana helped her to escape.
But even after she had returned to the UK, she was attacked by a knife-wielding man who told her she must return to Pakistan. Saima was injured in the attack and she lost the baby she was carrying. Since rebuilding her life, she is keen to help raise awareness about forced marriages.
Karma Nirvana works in conjunction with the Forced Marriage Unit, which is jointly run by the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The unit aims to provide advice and support to victims. In 2010 it helped 1,735 people. Of those people, 86% were female and 14% were male.
Jasvinder Sanghera, the founder of Karma Nirvana, hopes through the roadshows the mistaken assumption that forced marriage is a cultural issue will be corrected.
She said: “It is not a cultural problem, it is abuse.”
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