Students at an academy in Leeds who fear they will be taken abroad for forced marriage have been told to hide spoons in their underwear to trigger airport metal detectors and alert authorities of their situation.
As a Guardian article notes, all pupils at the Co-operative academy in Harehills have received their own spoon as part of an initiative to raise awareness of ‘honour’-based abuse and forced marriage.
The academy’s social, culture and ethos leader, Harinder Kaur, said that a hidden spoon could offer a practical solution for literally raising the alarm, making the authorities aware and potentially saving a young girl from forced marriage.
A recent Guardian investigation showed there were more than 3,500 reports of forced marriage made to the police in three years. In May, a mother from Birmingham was jailed for four-and-a-half years for tricking her 17 year-old daughter into marrying a man 16 years her senior in Pakistan.
The summer holidays are a prime time for parents to take their daughters abroad for forced marriages. The academy is working hand-in-hand with Derby-based charity Karma Nirvana, which campaigns against ‘honour’-based abuse and forced marriage, and educates pupils about the associated risks.
In 2017 alone, the charity received almost 9,000 calls on its forced marriage helpline, with nearly 200 of these made on behalf of a child aged 15 or under.
Kaur commented that her school had planned a week of events to coincide with Karma Nirvana’s yearly memory day to honour and remember those who have died as a result of ‘honour’-based abuse.
A number of former victims have visited the school to talk to pupils. “As educators, we have a responsibility to empower children with the knowledge and ability to make a difference to their own lives and the lives of others,” Kaur said.
Head of learning and development at the charity, Natasha Rattu, spoke of the past success of the spoon method. Yet, as well as offering it as practical advice, the main goal was to raise awareness of forced marriage and ‘honour’-based abuse among young people who may not even realise they are victims.
Natasha explained how girls are usually conditioned from a young age to believe it normal to be taken abroad to marry, and added how calls to the charity peak during summer months. “The summer holiday is the ideal time for parents who want to take their child abroad to be married because the school won’t be looking for where they are.”