Forced Marriage is all over the news at the moment with just days ago a mother in Birmingham was convicted for forcing her daughter to get married at the age of 13. This story echoes into the story of many as growing up in a South Asian community all I saw was young girls and boys being whisked off to Pakistan whilst still teenagers and coming back married!
Even though there are many services, organisations and plans put into place in communities to tackle this backward mentality I know firsthand this is something that is still practiced in communities. There are so many victims that suffer in silence and go ahead with it as many victims believe it to be a way of life and accept it as part of the culture and family tradition they live in. We all have a right to marry who we like and to take that right away from a person is violation of basic human rights.
I do believe either the fear of being in a forced marriage or already being in a forced marriage can be one of the aspects to deteriorating mental health. In cases of forced marriage most of the families have displayed years of controlling and coercive behaviour so victims became so used to being controlled it’s hard for them to walk away. Being able to spot the signs can help a victim to reach out and be their lifeline to a struggle they are finding hard to break away from:
Below I have just put some of the signs I have seen personally from victims as well as some of the signs that are advised by many services to spot in victims: (there are a lot more signs to look out for but I suggest looking below of this article as there is a list of services and organisations you can turn to if you need help in regards to forced marriage)
General warning signs of forced marriage
Educational sector: (If you are working in the educational sector)
Spotting the signs in the educational sector can be crucial as a high percentage of victims will be a victim by the age of 16!
- Truancy or extended absence from education with little explanation on where the student is.
- Request for extended leave of absence or failure to return from visits to country of origin
- Decline in engagement, performance or behaviour.
- Not allowed to attend extracurricular activities including trips or after school clubs.
- Sudden announcement of engagement to other students
- Sibling and cousin surveillance at school
- Prevention from going on to higher education
- Poor exam results
- Withdrawal from education without home schooling in place
- Afraid of breaking away for school holidays: hesitation on going home.
- Not allowed to work after leaving school
Mental Health being affected (those working in the medical field particularly)
One of the many things I noticed for a victim was they were always accompanied by a relative etc when going to medical appointments. If you suspect any sort of domestic violence or forced marriage in this case then do not hesitate to ask the patient to be by themselves as it may give them an opportunity to disclose or even speak more openly about things that are happening.
- Accompanied to the doctor’s or nurse’s clinic by a relative or even partner after the forced marriage
- Self-harm this can include burning, substance abuse, over dosing on pills, using a blade to cut themselves etc
- Eating disorder
- Attempted suicide
- Relapsing mental illness.
- Early/unwanted pregnancy
- Female genital mutilation
- Removal from day services of a person with intellectual or physical disability
Employment sector: (If you are a colleague or in management)
Forced marriages can occur at any age, there are many cases for people over the age of 20 so spotting the signs can never be ruled out. There is a need for education within work places in helping colleagues etc as something I noticed was management aren’t equipped to deal with the issues.
- Poor performance or attendance as suddenly started to miss days.
- Limited career choices: not being able to progress due to controlling behaviour at home.
- Unable to attend business trips or functions
- Subject to excessive financial control
- Accompanied to and from work
- Inflexible working arrangements
- Excessive calls and texts from relatives or partner occurring during working hours.
- Sudden loss of concentration and engagement at work
- Isolation from colleagues
Above are just some of the signs but there are many more to look out for. If you contact any of the services and organisations below they will be able to assist you.
If you are a victim of forced marriage and would like someone to speak to please contact Karma Nirvana and they will be able to help.
Award winning charity supporting victims for 25 years.
Forced Marriage Unit
Government based service
National charity tackling honour based violence, FGM and forced marriage