What does Karma Nirvana mean?

Karma means ‘peace’, and Nirvana ‘enlightenment’. We hope all of our victims will achieve this through our work.

What does Karma Nirvana do?

Karma Nirvana is a national charity supporting male and female victims of forced marriage and honour based abuse across the UK. We primarily support victims via our Honour Network Helpline: 0800 5 999 247 and provide them with practical and emotional support. We also provide guidance and advice to professionals dealing with these cases via our Helpline. In addition, we also host annual roadshows, events and training to professionals i.e. police forces, health professionals, social workers etc as we believe in the one chance rule- to get it right when supporting victims of this abuse.

What is honour based abuse?

Honour based abuse or violence is motivated by upholding the family ‘honour’ or ‘izzat.’ There are many triggers such as: having a boyfriend/girlfriend, being too ‘westernised’, wanting an education etc. The concept of ‘honour’ means different things to individuals and families but is the motive for honour based abuse although it is simply a false justification. With honour based abuse, there are usually multiple perpetrators- which includes male and females and they are often family members, extended relatives and members of the community.

What is an Arranged Marriage?

Arranged Marriage is very different to Forced Marriage. An arranged marriage means that families take a leading role, but both parties have the free will and choice to accept or decline the arrangement. Unlike forced marriages, an arranged marriage allows both the bride and groom to choose whether or not they want to marry the person suggested to them by their families. Crucially, the decision to marry always remains with the couple. It is a free and voluntary decision that can be unmade at any time, without consequence.

What is Forced Marriage?

Forced Marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning or physical disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage, and so pressure or abuse is used. They are forced into marrying against their will, usually by their families.

The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be physical, including threats, actual physical violence and sexual violence. It can also be emotional and psychological: for example, someone can be made to feel they are bringing shame on their family. Financial abuse, like taking your wages or not giving you any money, may also be a factor.

Men or women may be tricked into going abroad on a ‘family holiday’, and are then subjected to these pressures and abuses until they ‘agree’ to the marriage. Victims may also be imprisoned and threatened with abandonment if they resist.

What is the difference between a forced marriage and an arranged marriage?

Forced marriage – Is whereby one or both parties do not consent to the marriage and are instead forced and put under duress. This can be in the form of: physical, emotional, sexual or financial abuse. It is a marriage whereby an individual/s do not have a choice in the marriage and do not have the free and full consent to enter into the marriage.

Arranged marriage – Is whereby both parties are introduced to one another and are able to consent freely to the marriage without experiencing any form of duress or coercion.

When was Karma Nirvana founded?

Karma Nirvana (‘Peace & Enlightenment’) was founded in 1993 by our Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jasvinder Sanghera in Derby as a result of Jasvinder’s personal experiences and those of her sister Robina. Jasvinder knew there were many more victims and survivors out there of forced marriage and honour based abuse so Karma Nirvana was established to support them.

Today, we are a national charity based in Leeds, Yorkshire supporting male and female victims of forced marriage and honour based abuse across the UK. Our mission is to: increase reporting, reduce isolation and save lives.

Grey area?

There can be a very thin line between an arranged marriage and a forced marriage. A marriage can start out as ‘arranged’ but, if the person changes his/her mind at any time during the preparations (even on the wedding day), they have the right to pull out. If the person is then forced to ‘keep their word’ and go ahead with the marriage, it ceases to be a free choice and becomes a forced arrangement. The difference between a forced marriage and an arranged marriage hinges on choice. There is no compulsion in an arranged marriage.

What challenges do we face?

Karma Nirvana continues to face challenges in raising awareness and reaching more victims such as: communities condoning this abuse, victims being deterred from seeking help, professionals believing this abuse is ‘cultural’, people not recognising this abuse happens in the UK, schools not wishing to engage and help raise awareness etc.

Of course we are not complacent and aware that there are many more victims yet to reach and further work to be done in order to gradually eradicate forced marriage and honour based abuse.

Is this practice part of religion?

There is no requirement in any religion for you to marry someone not of your choosing, regardless of what anyone tells you. All major religions and faiths condemn this practice. Do not allow anyone to tell you any different.

I can’t afford to leave home. How is being homeless, with no money, a better life than a Forced Marriage?

There are housing services available for victims of Forced Marriage and Honour Abuse. These are safe environments where you can receive emotional and practical help, such as access to counselling. You can also be assisted in organising benefits and permanent housing. You will be encouraged to become independent, and to make your own decisions about your future. You will be provided with freedom, one of the most significant components in a happy and healthy life.

How can you guarantee my safety?

Whilst we cannot guarantee your safety, we can put you in contact with agencies whose job it is to protect you. Refuges can provide you with somewhere safe to stay if you choose to leave home. You can also be accommodated if you are a man or a couple. You should always call the police if you are in immediate danger.

If I think I might be forced into a marriage when I go abroad. What should I do?

If you are concerned that you will be forced into marriage when abroad, contact us. Once you leave the country, it is much harder to get help. However, there are some steps you can take to improve your situation when abroad. Take the address and contact details of a trusted friend, and of the High Commission/Embassy in the country you are visiting. You should also take some money, both in sterling and in the local currency, along with a a spare mobile phone. Photocopy your passport and tickets before you leave.

What happens if I am abroad and realise that I am being forced into a marriage?

You, or your trusted friend, should contact the nearest British Consulate, Embassy or High Commission. They will contact the FMU in the UK and arrange for assistance.

What happens if I’m abroad and manage to run away, but I don’t have enough money to fly home?

If you haven’t got the money, and you can’t borrow it from friend or relative, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office may, in some circumstances, be able to loan you the money for a ticket. Remember that you will have to pay this back when you get home.

How long will it take before I can come back to the UK, and where will I stay while arrangements are being made?

The Forced Marriage Unit will try and make arrangements for you to come back as soon as possible. However, if you do have to stay abroad for any length of time the British Embassy will assist you.

If I’m abroad, what will happen if I don’t have my passport?

Provided you are a British National, we can issue you with an emergency passport. If possible, take note of your passport numbers before you leave – this will be of great help.

I got married overseas. Is my marriage valid in the UK?

If your marriage is seen as valid in the country where it took place, it will often be valid in the UK. You must talk to a solicitor, whether you had a religious or civil marriage. Religious divorce is not valid in the UK.

My family are being abusive and threatening me with violence if I don’t go through with the marriage. What should I do?

Your personal safety is important. If you ever feel that you are in danger, you should contact the police immediately. The police will be able to assess your situation, advise you, and also refer you to support organisations. They will not tell your family that you have made contact with them.

Can I get legal protection to prevent the marriage?

Yes. Under the Forced Marriage Act 2007, you can apply to designated courts in England and Wales for a Forced Marriage Civil Protection Order. You can also ask someone to do so on your behalf. These orders can be used to prevent someone being forced into a marriage, or to protect someone if a forced marriage has already taken place. A person may be arrested if they breach an order.

I was forced into a marriage overseas. Can my spouse be refused a visa to follow me here?

The Forced Marriage Unit may be able to help, however you need to state publicly that you do not want your spouse to join you in the UK.

What has been the effect of the criminalisation of forced marriage?

Since the criminalisation of forced marriage on 16th June 2014, we have seen a definite increase in the number of calls to our helpline as this enables victims to own this abuse as a crime and pursue a prosecution if they wish to. We have also seen an increase in calls from professionals to our helpline in relation to advice and guidance as to how they should be dealing appropriately with cases of forced marriage and honour based abuse.

What role do Schools play in combating forced marriage and honour based abuse?

Schools are at the heart of prevention as forced marriage and honour based abuse affect children as well as adults. During the summer holidays, there is a peak in male and female students going missing as they are often taken abroad for a forced marriage. Schools therefore play a crucial role in safeguarding students and helping to raise awareness as the absence of some students is not questioned and sometimes professionals regard this abuse as ‘cultural’ when no religion or culture condones this abuse.

We have a Young Persons Officer who goes into Schools and educational establishments to help raise awareness amongst students and professionals so that they are aware help and support is available and can support those who are at risk.

Which communities does this abuse affect?

Forced marriage and honour based abuse is not exclusive to one particular community but instead affects males and females across many different cultural and religious backgrounds. We have dealt with cases from a variety of communities i.e. South Asian, African, Middle Eastern, Eastern European, White British & Traveller communities.

Also, this abuse is not cultural or part of religion. Instead, forced marriage and honour based abuse is not condoned by any culture or religion and these are simply used as false justifications.

Does Karma Nirvana support males?

Yes, we support male and female victims experiencing forced marriage and honour based abuse. We support individuals of all ages and ethnic backgrounds.

How many calls do we deal with to our Honour Network Helpline?

On average, we deal with over 700 calls a month to our helpline. 40% of calls are from professionals dealing with cases of forced marriage and honour based abuse whilst 60% of our calls are from male and female victims of this abuse.

We often see an increase in the number of calls during school holidays etc and other peak times, as it is likely some students will be taken abroad for a forced marriage.

What more needs to be done in relation to forced marriage/honour based abuse?

We believe awareness needs to continue to be raised across the UK and indeed internationally as well in relation to the issues of forced marriage and honour based abuse. More training needs to be carried out for professionals so that they are equipped with knowledge and confidence to deal with these cases. We offer training to professionals i.e. Police, social services, health professionals and so forth as we believe in the one chance rule- to get it right when supporting victims as we are aware they can be significantly harmed or indeed murdered in the false name of honour.

Furthermore, more schools need to engage and help to raise awareness of students and staff so that they become aware of help and support available and are supported appropriately. The statutory guidance developed by the government also needs to be adhered to by more professionals, as it outlines best practice and the dos and don’ts which are crucial when dealing with a victim of forced marriage or honour based abuse.