Schools have long shied away from discussing the issue – despite hundreds of girls in the UK going missing to be married off every year.
“Forced marriage is an abuse of human rights, a form of domestic abuse and, where it affects children and young people, child abuse,“ says Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Equalities and Criminal Information. “The government is already taking action, both in the UK and abroad, to raise awareness of the issue and protect those at risk. We are currently consulting on making forced marriage a criminal offence, as well as criminalising the breach of a Forced Marriage Protection Order.
“But enforcement is not enough. That is why I welcome the involvement of NGOs like Plan UK, whose new school resources pack is an example of the valuable work a number of charities are doing to provide information and support to local communities.”
Marie Staunton, CEO of Plan UK explains, “This is the first national effort to provide materials for use in British classrooms on the issue of early and forced marriage. There are up to 8,000 cases of forced marriage in England alone, and overseas early and forced marriage is one of the biggest development challenges of our time. We want to help young people understand how it can cut short a girl’s education – and how they can take action both here and overseas.”
The film is based on the true story of a 16 year old British girl whose family tried to force her into marriage and the pack is designed to be used by Key Stage 3 and above (11+).
As the end of term approaches the issue takes on particular significance: school holidays are considered the most dangerous times of the year, as girls risk being taken abroad to be married to men who may be two or three times their age.
Last year, the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 1,735 cases in the UK. The UK is linked to a global crisis, with at least ten million girls worldwide forced or coerced into marriage every year. They are at greater risk of being pulled out of school, early pregnancy and serious health problems like HIV. “We cannot address early and forced marriage internationally, without also raising awareness of the issue here,” says Marie Staunton. Globally, there are many causes for child marriage – such as gender inequality, poverty and the impact of natural disasters.
Our Take the Vow campaign calls on the UK government to take urgent action to end early and forced marriage everywhere.