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University Links Up with Charity to Raise Awareness of Forced Marriage

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The National Centre for the Study and Prevention of Violence and Abuse (NCSPVA) linked up with leading charity Karma Nirvana to host a roadshow highlighting the issue of Forced Marriage last week.

The newly-founded centre, based at the University of Worcester, combined with the charity, which has been supporting victims of honour based crimes and forced marriages since its establishment in 1993, to raise awareness among local, front-line professionals who deal with these issues, such as police and teachers.

Forced marriage is one to which one or both parties do not consent, and where duress is a factor.

The University’s Urwin Lecture Theatre welcomed representatives of Karma Nirvana, the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit and the Worcestershire Forum against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence, who spoke about forced marriage, which will become a criminal offence in a matter of weeks.

Anup Manota, Karma Nirvana Project Manager, said of the roadshow: “We were delighted to hold our first roadshow in Worcestershire, as for some time calls have been under-reported from the region.

“We are hopeful that the roadshow, which attracted more than 100 delegates, will prompt more calls to our helpline, which is a resource for the professionals within the area. We look forward to working with the University of Worcester and other regional partners.”

Ruth Jones OBE, Director of the NCSPVA, said: “I was really pleased with the event. The speaker presentations were informative, interesting and moving and we hope that we have raised the issue of forced marriage prior to the changes to legislation.

“Forced marriage will become a criminal offence on June 16 2014, and our event helped to highlight the new legislation and national and local policy.”

Ahead of this law change, Martin Lakeman, Strategic Co-ordinator for the Worcestershire Forum against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence outlined the determination among local groups to eradicate honour based abuse and forced marriage.

Mr Lakeman said: “This conference once again highlighted the devastating effects of forced marriage and how so called ‘honour’ can destroy lives. As agencies working to protect vulnerable people we mustn’t be afraid to confront perceived cultural and political sensitivities – forced marriage is quite simply a criminal offence.

“At the roadshow, we were privileged to hear the powerful and courageous voice of Yesmien, a survivor of abuse within a forced marriage. We must take a stand to speak for those suffering in silence.”

He added: “We must remind ourselves that there is no honour in honour based crime. We need to better understand the impact that it has on its victims and continue to challenge those that promote it.

“The roadshow once again demonstrated the excellent partnership working across Worcestershire with the launch of a new protocol to protect victims developed by the Children’s and Adult Safeguarding Boards, West Mercia Police and the Worcestershire Forum against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence. No one agency can achieve this important work alone.”

For more information on Karma Nirvana, visit www.karmanirvana.org.uk. The charity’s helpline number is 0800 5999 247.