UEL working with experts to tackle forced marriage
UEL workshop is part of University's long-term, institution-wide campaign
A panel of leading campaigners in the fight against forced marriage are mobilising staff and students at the University of East London (UEL), to make UEL an emerging sector leader in combating the issue.
A special workshop on 16 October brought together the expert panel as part of wider efforts by the University to embed the issue into degree programme modules for students, training for staff, and a forthcoming ambassador scheme, so that UEL is firmly committed to tackling the problem long-term.
The panel included Polly Harrar, founder of The Sharan Project (pictured right), Detective Constable Christine Roberts of the Metropolitan Police (pictured centre), and Mandy Sanghera, a human rights campaigner (pictured left).
It was organised by UEL comparative social policy analyst Dr Jana Javornik (pictured left, standing), who said, “I’m impressed with the interest and commitment shown by staff and students so far and grateful for the valuable input of the guest speakers.
“This allows us, working with partners, the UEL civic engagement and student support teams, to move ahead with investments in student professional development, teaching, and active campaigning that will mean the UEL community is taking a leading role in higher education.”
Each speaker presented a different aspect on the causes of forced marriage and its multifaceted solutions, including education, law, policing, and social support, to an audience of undergraduate sociology and criminology students.
Ms Harrar, of the Sharan Project, said, “We've engaged in about 86 schools, colleges, and universities across the UK, but what sets UEL apart is the work to make this a long-term, institutional project involving staff and students."
She said young adults were a key focus, as future policy makers, but also because the statistics show the majority of forced marriage victims are in their age group.
The Forced Marriage Unit reports that 371 cases (26 per cent) of forced marriage it dealt with last year involved a victim below 18-years-old. Some 497 cases (34 per cent) involved a victim aged 18-25-years-old.
“So getting this age group educated can make it easier for victims and potential victims of forced marriage to disclose it to peers and know there’s help,” she said.
Speaker DC Christine Roberts focused on the criminal and policing response. “I want students to know that forced marriage is a crime, a hidden crime like honour based abuse, and that there’s a police response,” she said.
A new piece of legislation introduced in 2014, the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act, makes it a criminal offence to force someone to marry.
For the year 2015-16, the police referred 90 cases to the Crown Prosecution Service, of which 53 were prosecuted, and 60.4 per cent of those were successful. Of the defendants, 81.1 per cent were male and 18.9 per cent female.
Forced Marriage Protection Orders, introduced in 2008 and made by family courts, were issued 246 times in 2016 and aim to curb the actions of those trying to force someone into a marriage.
DC Roberts continued, “The day has been a good example of presenting a joint effort to show how lots of different organisations and approaches are needed to end forced marriage.”
She currently serves as part of the Continuous Policing Improvement Command, where she is responsible for developing and maintaining policy around forced marriage and honour-based abuse.
Ms Sanghera, who has campaigned on this and related issues since 1990 at the UN, said, “It was very important for me attend the day as I believe in empowering young people and getting them involved with the relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals, and involving men as part of the solution..”
Forced marriage is a global problem. According to the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit, countries with the worst rates of a victim at risk of or actually being taken to, include: Pakistan 612 cases (43 per cent); Bangladesh 121 cases (8 per cent); India 79 cases (6 per cent); Somalia 47 cases (3 per cent); Afghanistan 39 cases (3 per cent); and Saudi Arabia 16 cases (1 per cent).
157 (11 per cent) of the cases that were handled by the Unit had no overseas element, with the potential or actual forced marriage taking place entirely within the UK.
Bockarie Koroma, a second-year Sociology with Professional Development student at UEL, says he learnt a lot from the sessions.
“There were a lot of things I didn’t know about, things that I wouldn’t have thought about before” he said. “I think the issue of forced marriage can seem straightforward, but we need to be aware of different types of force and coercion and enticement to get girls and women, boys and men into marriages, promising them a better life.”
The Government’s Forced Marriage Unit 2016 statistics report that 1,145 (80 per cent) forced marriage cases involved women victims, while 283 (20 per cent) involved male victims.
He continued, “There was also a big focus on involving men as part of the solution, fathers and sons need to be educated, and tell each other that forced marriage is wrong. Men, including myself, should aspire to marry someone who wants to do it freely for love and with respect.”