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Archive for June, 2020

Forced marriages could see a spike as lockdown is relaxed, campaigners warn

CAMPAIGNERS warned today of a possible spike in forced marriages as Britain eases lockdown restrictions and lifts quarantine rules.

Charities point to an increase in victims reaching out to them and have warned that parents could now be planning to take children abroad for weddings against their will as soon as laws on self-isolating for 14 days on return to Britain are scrapped.

The warning came as data gathered by the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), leading the government’s work on tackling the crime, indicated a rise in the number of LGBT victims.

It also revealed that more than a quarter of cases for which the unit provided advice last year involved children, while its figures indicated that the largest number of cases were linked to Pakistan.

Halo Project founder Yasmin Khan echoed the concerns, describing forced marriage as “disguising a multitude of harms” and something that can be arranged “extremely quickly.”

She said there had been a 63 per cent rise in referrals to the charity between March and May, adding that school closures had exacerbated the situation and saw victims contacting police instead.

Freedom Charity Aneeta Prem urged authorities to be alert to the concerns and said that victims were turning to shopkeepers for help.

School safeguarding rules cover “honour-based” abuse, which includes forced marriage, but Ms Prem — who has a waiting list of 200 schools asking for the charity’s accredited lesson plans and outreach projects — said more funding should be put into raising awareness.

Between 2008 and 2019, 2,452 Forced Marriage Protection Orders were granted in Britain’s courts in a bid to rescue victims.

The government branded forced marriage a “hidden crime,” admitting that the figures fell short of revealing the true scale of abuse.

‘Schoolgirl fearful of arranged marriage beaten and whipped’

*Please note: She was fearful of a ‘forced marriage’ not an arranged marriage as that would involve consent willingly*

A schoolgirl who feared being forced into an arranged marriage was assaulted by her father and brother for having a secret mobile and a Facebook account.

The 15-year-old was whipped with an electrical cable, hit with a walking stick, slapped and spat at, over several weeks.

Leicester Crown Court was told the dad and brother were concerned about her using the phone to contact another female relative – who had deserted an arranged marriage and moved away.

They suspected the teenager may also be using the phone – kept hidden in a school locker – to associate with boys.

The victim’s father and brother, who live in Leicester, each admitted two counts of common assault, during the end of last year.

Their identities have not been published because of a court order made to protect the victim.

Demands to see Facebook

Nadia Silver, prosecuting, said that during one confrontation the brother, who is in his early 20s, demanded to see her Facebook account.

When she refused, her brother took hold of an electrical lead and bent it over so that it was double thickness.

Miss Silver said: “He hit her with it a number of times on various parts of her body, including the top of her foot.

“A scar from that was still visible a month later when a police officer took a photograph.”

The prosecutor said the girl’s father, in his 40s, hit her with a wooden walking stick on her left arm, knee and calf when she came home late from a school event.

‘You’re not my sister any more’

The next day her brother went to his sister’s school and attempted to get the mobile from her locker, but staff denied him access.

When later confronted by her family at home, her brother demanded to know if she had a phone and when she confessed to having one he spat in her face saying: “You’re not my sister anymore.”

Miss Silver said: “The father, who was present in the front room with the other family members, also spat in her face.”

The next day, the brother was again refused permission to access his sister’s locker at the school, resulting in the head of safeguarding speaking to the girl, who winced in pain when given “a reassuring touch” on her shoulder.

She revealed that she had been physically hurt at home.

Fears over forced marriage

Miss Silver said: “She expressed a fear that her family would send her to Bangladesh to be married against her will.”

The final confrontation was when her brother slapped her face for refusing to hand over her phone.

During a subsequent family meeting at the school, the brother “expressed the family’s concern the girl was making inappropriate contact with boys using her phone,” said the prosecutor.

Figures show ‘at least 10’ FGM victims identified in the surrounding areas of Bradford

Doctors say at least ten victims of female genital mutilation were seen by NHS services in the surrounding areas of Bradford at the start of the year.

The National FGM Centre warned the risk to children and young people may have increased during the coronavirus pandemic, with school closures reducing contact with teachers and health professionals.

Roughly 10 victims of FGM were seen by health services in the the surrounding areas of Bradford Clinical Commissioning Group area between January and March, NHS Digital figures show.

Of those, at least one were having their injuries reported to the NHS for the first time.

Only approximate numbers are recorded in the data, to prevent identification of individual women.

FGM, where female genitals are removed, cut or injured for non-medical reasons, is illegal in the UK, and people carrying out or assisting with the procedure could face up to 14 years in prison.

Most girls are cut before they turn 15, but are frequently not identified or treated by the NHS until they are pregnant.

In the surrounding areas of Bradford, all of the women seen in 2018-19 were over 18.

The NHS says that children at risk of FGM may talk about plans to have a “special procedure” or “become a woman”.

Parents may also give clues, including stating that they or a family member will be taking the child out of the country for a prolonged period of time.

However, the National FGM Centre, run by children’s charity Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association, said these warning signs could go unheard while children across the UK are not attending school.

Leethen Bartholomew, the centre’s head, said: “While children and young people are at home, they are not linked to professionals and there are no services in contact with them – if there is a concern we wouldn’t know.

“They don’t have those opportunities to hear concerns and respond to disclosure.”

Middle East Egyptian father ‘used coronavirus lie’ to trick daughters into FGM

A man has been accused of tricking his daughters into undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) after telling them the doctor was visiting for coronavirus vaccinations.

Authorities in Egypt have said they will prosecute the father of the three girls – all minors – who have claimed they were misled into having the procedure.

The children were expecting to be vaccinated against Covid-19, but were instead injected with a drug that knocked them out and then operated on, the public prosecutor’s office said.

The mother – who is divorced from their father – notified authorities after the girls told her what had happened.

Egypt criminalised FGM in 2016, after the practice was banned eight years before.

The public prosecutor’s office said it has “ordered the referral” of the doctor – charged with performing the procedure – and father – charged with assisting him in the alleged crime – “to an urgent criminal trial”.

Doctors who carry out FGM can now be jailed for up to seven years in Egypt. Anyone who asked for it to be performed could face up to three years in prison.

However, no one has been successfully prosecuted under the 2016 law and women’s rights groups in Egypt have said the ban has not been well enforced.