As Britain puts airport staff on alert to spot potential victims of forced marriage, one campaigning group says the trick of putting a spoon in their underwear has saved some youngsters from a forced union in their South Asian ancestral homelands.
The concealed spoon sets off the metal detector at the airport in Britain and the teenagers can be taken away from their parents to be searched -- a last chance to escape a largely hidden practice wrecking the lives of unknown thousands of British youths.
The British school summer holidays, now well under way, mark a peak in reports of young people -- typically girls aged 15 and 16 -- being taken abroad on “holiday,” for a marriage without consent, the government says.
The bleep at airport security may be the last chance they get to escape a marriage to someone they have never met in a country they have never seen.
The spoon trick is the brainchild of the Karma Nirvana charity, which supports victims and survivors of forced marriage and honor-based abuse.
Based in Derby, central England, it fields 6,500 calls per year from around Britain but has almost reached that point so far in 2013 as awareness of the issue grows.
When petrified youngsters ring, “if they don’t know exactly when it may happen or if it’s going to happen, we advise them to put a spoon in their underwear,” said Natasha Rattu, Karma Nirvana’s operations manager.
“When they go though security, it will highlight this object in a private area and, if 16 or over, they will be taken to a safe space where they have that one last opportunity to disclose they're being forced to marry,” she told AFP.
“We’ve had people ring and that it’s helped them and got them out of a dangerous situation. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to do with your family around you -- but they won't be aware you have done it. It’s a safe way.”
The charity is working with airports -- so far London Heathrow, Liverpool and Glasgow, with Birmingham to come -- to spot potential signs, such as one-way tickets, the time of year, age of the person and whether they look uncomfortable.
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