SHOCKING stories of rape, threats of violence, self-harm and suicide were brought into the open in Poole at a roadshow raising awareness of honour based violence and forced marriage.
Around 550 people attended the event at Lighthouse, hosted by Safer Poole Partnership and Dorset Police, at which the importance of a new forced marriage law on June 16 was highlighted.
DCI Jez Noyce, the head of serious crimes investigation for Dorset Police, said the 22 incidents reported in Bournemouth and Poole last year came from isolated ethnic communities, which could increase the risk.
“It is widely recognised that it’s under reported,” he said. “Victims are going under the radar. That’s an issue.”
Traditionally those forced into marriage were aged 14-18 but they could be up to 30 or beyond. And it affected both sexes. He said the new law included an offence of breaching a forced marriage protection order.
Borough of Poole strategic director Jan Thurgood told the biggest of 21 events across the UK: “This has never been something we have had a great deal of experience of. We really need to learn from others.”
Charity Karma Nirvana founder and chief executive Jasvinder Sanghera said her Honour Network Helpline was receiving 720 calls a month – and missing a further 221.
She said they were coming from people born in Britain who were being taken back to their parents’ homeland and forced into marriage, as happened to her sisters, one of whom later set herself on fire and died.
She rebelled against a forced marriage, ran away from home and was disowned by her family at age 16.
“I am ashamed to say that most perpetrators of forced marriage are women, not men – mothers, aunties, sisters.”
Jasvinder said: “We want to increase reporting, reduce isolation and save lives.”
The Karma Nirvana helpline is 0800 5999 247.
Victim's harrowing tale
SURVIVOR “Ayesha” was 18 when she was forced to marry a Punjabi man that she did not know. Having run away from home at 16, she was pursued by her family and threatened with violence.
She told a harrowing tale of being raped on her wedding night, of near suicide, running away and being found by members of her family and nearly run off the road in a car.
Ayesha, now 37, received help from Karma Nirvana and said she was resolved to raise awareness.
“Forced marriage and honour based violence is happening in the UK, not in the Middle East and Pakistan. If I can help one person out there, it will be worth it,” she said.