School tackling forced marriage with 'spoon in underwear'

School advises pupils how to trigger airport metal detectors if they are taken away for forced marriage in holidays


A school is aiming to tackle forced marriage by advising pupils to put a spoon in their underwear if they fear being taken abroad against their will during the summer holidays.

Pupils at the Co-op Academy in Leeds will be told that the spoon will trigger airport metal detectors and result in them being taken for a search, thus allowing them to raise the alarm safely and in private.

The inner-city secondary in Harehills, an area with one of the largest South Asian populations in Leeds, is working with the charity Karma Nirvana to give advice to teenagers who may be taken overseas for forced marriages during the six-week break.

The academy is organising a series of events this week in conjunction with the charity, which supports victims of honour-based based abuse and forced marriage.

Harinder Kaur, a social, culture and ethos leader at the academy, said: “Unfortunately, the summer holidays is a time when young people can be taken abroad against their will.

"The spoon in your underwear is a simple way of letting the authorities know if you think you are in danger.

Forced marriage 'shouldn't be a taboo subject'

“For the past two years, Karma Nirvana has held an annual memory day to remember those who have died of honour-based abuse, but this year it has been extended to a week and so we are using this time to tell our students about the work they do in this area.

"While there is no legal requirement to teach children about this important issue 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.” 

Government figures show that its Forced Marriages Unit gave advice and support to people in more than 1,200 cases in 2017, of which nearly 30 per cent involved under-18 victims.

Ms Kaur, who is a British Indian Sikh, told Tes that she was keen to stop the issue of forced marriage being a taboo subject.

She also said she wanted pupils from different cultures to understand that there are differences between an arranged marriage and a forced one.

She said: “I have had an arranged marriage. And when I told my pupils this, some of them were saying: ‘Miss I cannot believe it.’ I want pupils to be able to discuss this."

Ms Kaur said that she wanted all pupils to understand that they should not be forced into decisions.

Karma Nirvana said that it receives 22 reports a week from young people under the age of 17 about honour-based abuse or forced marriage.

Forced marriage is recognised as a form of modern slavery, which the Co-op is raising awareness of as well as supporting victims by offering jobs under an innovative employment scheme.

Under the programme, known as Bright Future, the Co-op provides survivors with a four-week paid work placement leading to a non-competitive job interview.


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