For many of us the summer months represent a time of freedom, where days are endless and filled with the things that we want to do. But for 1468 people last year, this wasn’t, and will never be the case. Instead, they found themselves forced into marriages they had never agreed to, with people they had never met…
“For some, summer represents a life they haven’t chosen, and don’t know how to avoid,” was the opening statement made by FCO Minister Alistair Burt at the launch of the Right To Choose Campaign yesterday.
Launched in an effort to raise awareness to the all too real reality that faces the youth, the summer holidays have been found to be the peak time in which young people are taken overseas and forced into marriages against their will. Often, they’re told they’re going on holiday to visit family, but once there, are isolated and unable to escape from the wedding, and the life that has been arranged for them.
FCO Minister Alistair Burt went on to reveal that the Prime Minster has already announced plans to make forced marriage illegal, but that the legislation itself is not enough.
Despite the fact that everyone in Britain, whichever religion or beliefs they adhere to, has the right to choose whether they wish to get married and who they wish to get married to, more often than we think – people are forced into marriage. Sometimes to someone they dislike or have never met. Sometimes they are too young to get married. Sometimes they are lesbian or gay and don’t want to marry someone of the opposite sex. Sometimes, they have no choice.
Therefore, in an effort to further raise awareness of the risks, and of the fact that help is available, three heart-wrenching and hard hitting short films have been developed to highlight the devastating effects forced marriage can have, and to remind young people that if they or someone they know are in danger, they are not totally helpless, and that help can and will be administered.
In the first six months of 2012, the FMU has given advice or support related to 747 possible forced marriage cases, with a 26% increase in the last month alone. At this age, and in the cultures where such instances are most common, a parents word is often the final one. This campaign, however, aims to raise awareness that this does not necessarily need to be the case, and that if you or someone you know are in such a situation, you are not alone.
Based on an amalgamation of real life scenarios and emotions, the hard-hitting clips remind young people to speak up if they think they or someone they know are close to danger.
Joint Head of the Forced Marriage Unit Amy Cumming implored: “Every day in the unit we see the devastating impact forced marriage has on individuals. Many of the victims who contact us have experienced horrendous sexual and physical violence. They endure intense pressure in many forms – whether emotional, financial or otherwise. Forced marriage affects many communities and cultures. Today, I’m strongly urging people to back the Right to Choose campaign: don’t leave it too late – call our helpline and get advice.”
This is not a case of see, speak, hear no evil. Doing nothing is not the answer.
Show your support for the campaign on Twitter by using the hashtag #RightToChoose
If you suspect that you or someone you know is at risk, call the FMU helpline – (+44) (0)20 7008 0151 – it’s totally confidential and is open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org. For out of hours emergency advice, call (+44) (0)20 7008 1500 and ask for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Global Response Centre. For more information, visit www.fco.gov.uk/forcedmarriage
Words by Alya Mooro