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What does Karma Nirvana mean?

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

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 abuse although it is simply a false justification. With honour 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 the difference between an Arranged and Forced 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 Marrige – 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.

Arranged or Forced: 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 are the main challenges?

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 Honour Based Abuse and Forced Marriage part of Religion?

To our knowledge, there is no scripture in any of the major religions that condone Forced Marriage. Culture, Religion and Tradition is no excuse, Forced Marriage is illegal in the UK.

I don't want to get married, but have no where to go?

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 threatening me with violence if I don’t go through with the marriage.

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.

Schools getting involved?

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?

Honour crimes are most prevalent within diaspora communities from South Asia, the Middle East, and North and East Africa.  Reports come from Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Orthodox Jewish and occasionally traveller communities. Honour Abuse is not determined by gender; both perpetrators and victims can be male or female.

Does Karma Nirvana support men?

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 does the Helpline receive?

On average, we receive 700-800 calls a month to our helpline. 40% of calls are from professionals.

There is an increase in the number of calls just before the school holidays, as this is when students are taken abroad to be married.

What more needs to be done in relation to Honour Based Abuse and Forced Marriage?

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.