Spoon in underwear saving youths from forced marriage in UK

Last Updated: Fri, Aug 16, 2013 17:52 hrs

London: Faced with the prospect of being forced into a marriage against their will, teenagers, mostly from Britain's South Asian community, are using an unusual 'spoon trick' to save themselves from the ordeal.

A UK charity has revealed that it advises potential victims to hide a spoon in their underwear to set off metal detectors at the airport and believes it has helped save a number of girls from forced marriage in their countries of origin.

"When youngsters ring, if they don't know exactly when it may happen, or if it's going to happen, we advise them to put a spoon in their underwear," said a spokesperson for Karma Nirvana, which runs a helpline from Derby in the East Midlands region of England.

"When they go through security, it will highlight this object in a private area and, if 16 or over, they will be taken to a safe space where they have that one last opportunity to disclose they're being forced to marry," the spokesperson said.

"We've had people ring and say that it's helped them and got them out of a dangerous situation. It's an incredibly difficult thing to do with your family around you, but they won't be aware you have done it. It's a safe way," the spokesperson added.

The technique comes to light just days after the UK government issued a nation-wide alert for teachers, doctors and airport staff to be extra vigilant towards the problem of forced marriage during ongoing school holidays.

It is feared that British teenagers, mostly with origins in the Indian sub-continent, are taken abroad on the pretext of a holiday and then forced into marriage instead.

Figures suggest cases are particularly common during the summer break as the government's Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) received 400 reports between June and August last year.

According to the 2012 statistics, the maximum number of calls for help came from victims of Pakistani origin (47.1 per cent), followed by Bangladeshi (11 per cent) and Indian (8 per cent).

The other cases are spread across about 60 countries, including Afghanistan, Somalia, and Turkey.

The FMU is now handing out advice cards to provide help and information to potential victims, pointing them to confidential advice.

"The school summer holidays are the time when young people are at the highest risk of being taken overseas for a forced marriage," Foreign Office minister Mark Simmondssaid in a statement.

"'Our Marriage: It's Your Choice' cards highlight that people who are at risk of forced marriage know they can turn to our Forced Marriage Unit for support, whether they are at home or are already abroad," Simmondssaid.

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