British police forces are warning children that they may be subject to “honour based violence” such as forced marriages and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) when they go on vacation as the prevalence of the crimes spikes amongst the country’s minority communities during the school summer break.
Greater Manchester Police tweeted memes on Tuesday urging young people getting ready to go on their summer family vacations to contact authorities if they are concerned their holiday “isn’t what it seems”.
In wording that puts the onus on children to protect themselves from “honour based abuse”, Greater Manchester Police warns young people that promises of gifts, visiting relatives that have never been spoken of before, or being told “it will be the best place” for them before going on holiday are signs that they could be prospective victims of forced marriage or FGM.
The memes were tweeted out by Manchester police’s other station accounts including Denton Police and Hyde/Hattersley, and echoes the efforts of other forces and authorities in recent weeks as schools close down for the summer break.
Essex Police launched its summer “Operation Limelight” at Stansted Airport last week where they spoke to passengers and airport staff to “raise awareness” about FGM, writing in their press statement: “And whilst FGM can take place at any time of the year, Operation Limelight is a dedicated initiative that focuses on the summer months as this has been shown to be most effective for identifying girls at risk.”
“Girls are frequently taken to their family’s county of origin because perpetrators know they have a six week window to heal before taking them back to school,” Essex Police added.
And British-born girls coerced or forced into marriages in Pakistan or Bangladesh simply do not return to school in September at all.
Last week, a school in Leeds, northern England — which like Manchester, has a high migrant minority population — sought to tackle forced marriage by giving their pupils metal spoons.
Children were advised by the Co-operative Academy of Leeds that should they fear being taken abroad to be forced into marriage to put the spoon in their underpants so as to trigger airport security metal detectors. Airport staff — trained to spot the signs of a child in fear of forced marriage — would then be able to talk to the young victims in private.
British lawmakers and authorities have been accused of turning a blind eye to FGM and forced marriage due to political correctness, with British FGM survivor Nico Ali writing for the Evening Standard on Tuesday that, when she was subjected to the abuse, “to question an act of abuse some deemed to be part of established culture was to be politically incorrect”.
Ali’s condemnation of the practice and calls for more to be done to protect children came the same week that a father in Somalia defended the ‘cultural’ practice after his 10-year-old daughter bled to death as a result of FGM.
Despite 5,391 new cases of FGM in 2016-2017 alone, not one single child abuser has been convicted for the practice in the UK.
And despite forced marriages being illegal, there have been only two successful convictions of parents forcing their teen daughters to marry against their will, with both convictions made in May 2018.
The government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) identified more than 8,000 cases since 2010 and logged nearly 1,200 forced marriages last year alone, with the organisation saying that number “may not reflect the full scale of the abuse”.
More than one third – 439 – of the forced marriages either took place or were due to take place in Pakistan, followed by Bangladesh with 129 reports in 2017.
Last week Britain’s largest police force, London’s Metropolitan Police, asserted that arrests and prosecutions alone will not stop FGM, stressing the importance of “having conversations” with migrants for whom “community ties” are paramount.