The UK’s only forced marriage hotline received almost twice as many calls in January as in the same month last year.
The Karma Nirvana helpline, funded by the Ministry of Justice, took 1,070 calls that month, compared to only 660 in January 2013. It missed almost 140 calls, double the number missed last year, and resources are now stretched so thin that the helpline may have to close for three days each week.
Most callers to the helpline are from women who are victims or fear becoming victims of ‘honour’ violence or forced marriage. Some of the callers are under 15 years of age, the Independent reports.
Karma Nirvana founder Jasvinder Sanghera said:
“This is a hidden crime and our victims have multiple perpetrators. They can be extremely isolated, with their nearest and dearest trying to keep them away from agencies. Reporting is quite rare and very courageous. We know we have funding until March next year, but we can’t operate at full capacity. We’ll have to consider cutting the service to four days a week, because we can’t cope with the level of demand.”
The paper quotes forced marriage victim Shahina Swain, who was disowned by her family at the age of 17 after fleeing a forced marriage her family had planned in Bangladesh. She escaped when a relative helped her return to Britain.
“There was sheer panic, shock and disbelief. I said, no, I didn’t want to go through with it. But it is a case of: tough, this is what you have to do. Once home, the trust for me had completely gone. The people I loved, who I felt were going to protect me, had done the ultimate thing by betraying my right to choose. The trauma itself is something you can never get past. I can’t celebrate family time, my birthday or their birthdays. You need to give these victims a voice. For me, this would have been an immense support.”