School fights forced marriage by giving girls spoons – so they can set off metal detectors at airport
A SCHOOL is attempting to tackle forced marriages by giving pupils spoons to put in their underwear to trigger airport metal detectors.
Girls attending the Co- operative Academy of Leeds have been urged to hide the cutlery if they fear they are being taken overseas to be wed.
The spoons will set off the detectors, allowing students to raise the alarm with airport security staff privately.
Harinder Kaur, the social, culture and ethos leader at the academy, said the spoons can ‘save lives’. Eighty per cent of UK forced marriages happen during the summer holidays, making it peak time for parents to take daughters abroad to be married.
Miss Kaur told the Guardian: ‘In the six-weeks holidays we know there is no contact between school and the family and families have that opportunity to go abroad, get their child married and come back.
‘ It’s a way of making our children aware that there is a safety net there.
‘As educators, we have a responsibility to empower children with the knowledge and ability to make a difference to their own lives and the lives of others.
She added: ‘The spoon in your underwear is a simple way of letting the authorities know if you think you are in danger.’
The academy, an inner-city secondary school, is working with the charity Karma Nirvana, which campaigns against ‘honour’-based abuse and forced marriage. It says it receives 22 reports a week from young people under the age of 17 about these types of abuse.
Natasha Rattu, the head of learning and development at Karma Nirvana, said girls were often conditioned from a very young age to consider forced marriages to be normal. The charity’s helpline peaks over the summer period.
Ms Rattu said: ‘The summer holiday is the ideal time for parents who want to take their child abroad to be married because the school won’t be looking for where they are.’
The spoon method has been used successfully in the past and helps raise awareness in young people who might not realise they are victims of the abuse themselves, she added.
In 2011, a 16-year-old Muslim girl called the charity and told them that she was travelling to Pakistan with her family.
The call handler became worried after hearing she would be chaperoned everywhere by her brothers and advised the teenager to put a spoon in her underwear.
At the airport, the girl’s brothers told her that she was going be married due to her ‘shameful behaviour’ – but she was saved by the spoon setting off a metal detector.
Forced marriage is recognised as a form of modern slavery.
In June 2014, a law came into effect making it a criminal offence to force people into marriage. It is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
‘A form of modern slavery’