Breaking the cycle of abuse associated with honour crimes

Our 2015 Nurse of the Year Amanda Burston on challenging the stereotypes of forced marriage

In April 2016 the University Hospital of North Midlands hosted a safeguarding day, discussing the challenges of abuse. One of the inspirational speakers was Jasvinder Sanghere CBE, from the charity Karma Nirvana.

The group's founding principle is 'Forced marriage is against the UK law; it is not part of any religion, culture or tradition'.

Jasvinder shares her own story, and the stories of people she has been involved with, raising awareness of forced marriage and the desperate effects it has on the family. The audience were asked to consider an alternative to the stereotypical image held of the perpetrators as male bullies and thugs, and the victims as subservient females with a drug or alcohol addiction, and try to understand the reality faced by victims of forced marriage.

Perpetrators in forced marriages can be led by the head female of the family, supported by all other members. The family beliefs are forced on girls as young as eight. The young girl is taken out of school, out of the country, to meet a man, often older, to whom she may have been promised several years ago. The young girl has no voice in this process; there is no objection, no option to choose. If the girl finds a way of raising an objection, it is considered to bring dishonour to her family.

Such 'dishonourable' behaviour can result in heavy penalties for the girl, such as burning, bleaching, beatings, rape and death - all carried out by family members.

If a victim discloses that they fear for their life as a result of dishonourable behaviour, believe what you hearing; the victim's fear is possibly based on their experiences in the family. Never include family members in your conversations with the victim, or use family members as interpreters where language is a barrier. Safety is paramount and your actions can save a life.

Once an episode of dishonourable behaviour has occurred, the family may claim that person is dead to them and can never be contacted again, no matter what the age of the victim. Those girls who do as the family wishes may suffer a lifetime of abuse, but will never speak about it for fear of bringing shame to the family.

Further information is available on the Karma Nirvana website

About the author

Amanda BurstonAmanda Burston is major trauma co-ordinator in the emergency department at Royal Stoke University Hospital and RCN Nurse of the Year 2015.

Find out more about the RCNi Nurse Awards here


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