Forced marriages are becoming so common in Britain that the government has put the country’s airport workers on watch for signs of the problem among young women and men. A charity for victims of abuse and forced marriages has found a creative way for victims to escape such a fate, one that takes advantage of the fact that the forced marriages rarely happen within the country.
The U.K.-based charity Karma Nirvana is urging victims of forced marriage to put a spoon in their underwear before they go to the airport to be flown off to their family’s homelands to meet their new spouses. The spoon will cause metal detectors at the airport to beep; victims will be taken away from their parents to be searched, giving them one last chance to alert airport authorities that they are being forced into marriage.
Natasha Rattu, Karma Nirvana’s operations manager, said that tricks like the spoon in the underwear are essential to help victims avoid arranged marriages because it is often impossible for them to safely stand up to their families.
Karma Nirvana gets about 6,500 calls per year from people worried that they are being forced into marriage, though that number is growing as the charity raises awareness about the issue. Last year, Britain’s Foreign Office’s Forced Marriage Unit dealt with about 1,500 cases of forced marriage.
Most forced marriages in Britain occur among residents of South Asian countries, with nearly half the forced marriages documented in Britain among Pakistani families, with Bangladesh, India and Afghanistan among the other most common countries of origin.