Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 6 December 2019

UK launches unprecedented campaign against forced marriages

Authorities have strengthened measures at Heathrow Airport to stop abuses

The writer says he may have been subjected to forms of bigotry when going through London Heathrow Airport. Reuters
The writer says he may have been subjected to forms of bigotry when going through London Heathrow Airport. Reuters

UK authorities will carry out an operation at Heathrow airport to prevent and raise awareness over forced marriage and other abuse of women and girls.

Officers will scan flights from “countries of prevalence” for “honour” abuse, female genital mutilation and breast ironing, in which girls’ chests are pounded to stop them growing.

The UK government says forced marriage is where one or both spouses do not consent, with children and vulnerable people often at risk.

“Coercing or forcing children into marriage is illegal and can involve physical, sexual or emotional abuse,” said the National Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Children.

“Sometimes children are, understandably, too frightened to speak up because they believe they have no control over the situation and they worry they will get their family into trouble or be disowned by their parents.”

A coalition of border forces, police and specialist organisations will lead the operation through education, protection and enforcement at the airport.

In Operation Limelight, officials will engage with passengers from communities affected by the crimes and conduct checks on passengers.

Inbound flights will also be screened for victims and perpetrators, while the health and legal consequences will also be explained.

Insp Allen Davis from the Metropolitan Police said change was crucial to allow conversations about forced marriage to be normalised and to raise the profile of the crime.

Mr Davis said that would encourage victims to come forward and seek help.

“Only by working collaboratively can we raise awareness, safeguard the vulnerable and ultimately prevent vulnerable people being subject to what can be a lifetime of abuse,” he said.

Survivors of forced marriage will also support and advise the operation, as will children’s charities.

“No one should be forced to marry or be subjected to abuse such as female genital mutilation and Border Force is determined to play its role in protecting potential victims,” said Amanda Read, the force’s lead for protection against marital abuse.

Updated: July 17, 2019 10:00 AM