The original tale may be apocryphal, but the story of the silver spoon has saved the lives of hundreds of British Muslim girls being forced into marriage by their parents. “Put a spoon in your knickers,” a counselor at the British organization Karma Nirvanatold a young girl being sent abroad to wed against her will. Karma Nirvana attends to the needs of girls being threatened with forced marriage, many of whom are under the age of 17.
The idea behind the plot was simple, but ingenious: the spoon would set off alarms at airport security, whereupon the unwilling bride-to-be could explain her situation to a law enforcement officer who could then intervene to protect her.
The ploy evidently worked, and has been adopted since by other young women in the UK, most of them British-born, who are sent to their parents’ original homes and villages in Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere to marry first cousins they have never met, conscribed to a life of servitude and worse.
It’s a trick more and more girls seem to need. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Britain’s Forced Marriage Unit took in 1,485 such cases in 2012. And that’s just a drop in the proverbial bucket. Britain’s Chief Prosecutor Nazir Afzal told the ABC, “There are probably between 8,000 to 10,000 forced marriages or threats of forced marriage in the UK every year.” Even more shocking, according to the FMU, of those, nearly 1,500, or “thirteen percent involved victims below 15 years [and] 22 percent involved victims aged 16-17.” One victim was merely 2 years old; another, at the other end of the spectrum, was 71.