Good News Shared newsletter subscribers* and Twitter followers will know that I recently got married. It was a wonderful day and I feel very lucky. It was one of the happiest days of my life.
Unfortunately this is not the case for everyone.
A few years ago I read a book that has stayed with me. It was about Jasvinder, a girl born in the UK who, aged 14, was shown a photo of the man her family had chosen to be her husband. This man had been chosen for her when she was just 8 years old. Jasvinder ran away from home, unwilling to be forced to marry a man she had never met. The book, Shame, is a true story.
I was sad that a family would treat their daughter like this, and I was shocked that this was happening in the UK. I remember feeling grateful for being born into a family that would never dream of doing something like this.
According to this Huffington Post article, David Cameron has read Shame, and it left a lasting impression on him too.
Despite it being written a few years ago now, the issues raised in Shame are just as relevant today. If you haven’t read it yet, I really recommend you do. Click here to buy it from Amazon**
Forced Marriage: The Real Disgrace
I recently attended an event on Forced Marriage at UCL, where an expert panel, including Jasvinder Sanghera CBE (from the book I mentioned above), Seema Mahotra MP (Labour Shadow Minister for Women), and Dr Reefat Drabu (former Assistant General Secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain) discussed the concept of izzat (honour), recent changes in UK law, barriers to tackling forced marriage, and reasons to be hopeful of positive change.
The event left me feeling shocked and sad, but also inspired and optimistic for the future.
We were shown the award-winning documentary Honor Diaries, which you can watch on Netflix or Amazon. A trailer is below:
After the screening, the panel made it clear that it is culture not religion that is central to the issue of forced marriage and honour killings.
Forced Marriage is illegal in the UK, but there are up to 8000 cases of forced marriage annually in England. Karma Nirvana, a charity set up by Jasvinder Sanghera to support victims of honour crimes and forced marriages, receives 850 calls a month. 18% of these calls are by men, many of whom are being forced into marriage to hide their sexuality. I was surprised to hear this statistic, but was pleased to hear that the UK does have male refuges – if you would like more information about these please contact Karma Nirvana on 0800 5999247. Alternatively, you can contact the Men’s Advice Line on 0808 8010327.
What gives me hope
The statistics are pretty bleak, yet I do feel optimistic. Here are three reasons why:
- Forced marriage is now a crime in the UK
- The forced marriage event at UCL was fully booked, showing there are people who care about this issue
- The Honor Diaries documentary, featuring nine courageous women who are working hard to affect change in their communities and beyond, is one way awareness of these issues is being raised.
Ways you can help
1. Organise a screening of the Honor Diaries documentary to raise awareness
2. Watch the documentary
3. Get in touch with Karma Nirvana to see how you can help and get involved with their work
*I don’t normally write about personal things in the newsletter, but seeing as it was being sent on my wedding day I thought it was a great chance to share my good news and ask readers to share theirs with me!
** Please note: this is an affiliate link – this means if you buy anything on Amazon using the link Good News Shared will earn 5% commission. This money will help us keep the site running and the good news flowing. The price you pay will be the same as if you went to Amazon directly.