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Call for summer vigilance over forced marriages
TEACHERS, friends, and employers in East Lancashire are being asked to look out for young Asian women being sent to the sub-continent for forced marriages this summer.
Local headteachers and community leaders warned that the long school holiday was the peak time for teen-agers being taken abroad and bullied into marrying men from their families’ home countries.
They spoke out after the government launched a new campaign aiming to highlight the issue of forced marriages within UK’s Asian community.
So far this year, Foreign Office staff overseas provided assistance in 46 cases of forced marriage – mostly female.
Lancashire Police revealed that since April 2010, they had taken out 11 Forced Marriage Protection Orders, all in Eastern Division, covering Blackburn, Hyndburn, and Ribble Valley.
Lancashire police authority member Saima Afzal, raised in Audley, in Black-burn, and herself a victim of forced marriage, said: “This is an issue where schools, and teachers, have to be aware of what is going on, and educate young Asian women, and their friends, about this.
“It needs to be done tactfully as part of educating everybody about their safety. It is for the whole community to stop forced marriages and rec-ognise that the summer poses a problem where young Asian women go away and do not come back because of forced marr-iages.
“Employers and friends also need to be aware of this, and ask why young women are going away for long periods.”
Speaking to the BBC's North West Tonight, head of Marsden Heights Community College, in Nelson, Mike Tull, said: “This is an issue we’ve had to deal with in the past, with young women not appearing in September, despite our best efforts. My concern is that too many schools shy away from this issue.”
Vivien Blackledge, from Blackburn. Darwen, and District Women’s Aid, said: “We had 28 inq-uiries from concerned young people – 25 female and three male – about this last summer.
“It is very common for young women to be taken away on holiday in the summer, somet-imes under false pretences, for a forced marriage.”
Anjum Anwar, of East Lanc-ashire-wide Woman’s Voice, said: “This situation does happen in some cases over the summer.
“It is for Muslim community leaders to say this is illegal, immoral and un-Islamic.
“Everyone – community leaders, professionals, friends and fam-ily – needs to be alert to this problem.”