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Forced Marriage Awareness Day

News   •   Aug 04, 2016 11:00 BST

The Metropolitan Police Service, working in partnership with the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO), have today, Thursday, 4 August, held an awareness session with police officers to discuss the challenges around identifying and tackling the problem of forced marriage and honour based abuse on young girls and women.

Around 35 officers from various departments within the Met attended the event to help them get a better understanding of the issues and how best to uncover these often hidden crimes.

During the session, a screening of the BBC film ‘Murdered By My Father’ was presented to officers, later giving them a chance to discuss its contents. IKWRO’s advice team worked with the officers to give them practical advice on how to identify a potential victim and highlighted the 'dos and don'ts' in cases of honour based violence.

Officers have an important role to play in identifying victims. Whenever they attend a domestic incident they need to think, could this be a result of honour based abuse of being forced into marriage? Officers were advised not to discuss the incident with the victim around family members, as they are often the ones involved. They were also reminded to keep an eye out for any siblings who might be potential victims in the future.

These situations are very sensitive and support from partner agencies like IKWRO are very important.

IKWRO supports women and girls through advice, advocacy, making effective referrals, training and one-to-one and group professional counselling. The Advice team speaks seven community languages as well as English and counselling is provided in Arabic, Kurdish, Farsi and English. 

Last year, IKWRO alone received calls from around 2,500 women, girls and professionals. They also assisted 800 women through intensive one-to-one casework. The Met however received just 79 reports about forced marriages in 2015-16.

Detective Constable Christine Roberts, the organiser of the event, said: "I would like to thank IKWRO for providing officers and staff with a clearer understanding of these often hidden crimes. It is hoped that there will be further opportunities to provide similar awareness training sessions to Met officers and staff, by Non Government Organisations (NGO) who provide advocacy for women and girls facing honour based abuse, forced marriage, domestic abuse and female genital mutilation.

"It is clear this issue is being under-reported but simply contacting the police isn’t that straightforward for victims who are faced with a dilemma of going against their family. If it is not fear that stops them, it’s a sense of betrayal. We want to make it clear to young girls and women who are being subjected to honour base abuse or being forced into a marriage, it is a crime and we are here to help and protect you."

Diana Nammi, Executive Director, the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, said: "IKWRO are delighted to be working closely with the Metropolitan Police. At the event we screened and discussed Murdered By My Father, a film about "honour" killing, which IKWRO helped the BBC to create. Through this partnership and by sharing IKWRO’s expertise, we are increasing officers’ understanding of how to identify 'honour' based violence and how to best protect and support anyone at risk which ultimately will keep people safe and save lives."

Below are just some of the signs which might indicate that someone is facing or is already a victim of forced marriage:

- Domestic abuse or rape;
- Depression, or becoming worried or withdrawn;
- Poor performance at work, school or college or often being absent;
- No control over their own money;
- Many may not come back from a visit to another country.

London’s community can also help to raise alarm if they feel something untoward is happening to a young women or child. Anyone with information or concerns relating to forced marriages or honour based abuse are asked to contact police via 101, or anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Forced marriage is not the same as an arranged marriage which is a cultural practice, which is not unlawful, and involves consent of both spouses.