Dorset Conference On Forced Marriage Problem

Police say forced marriages and honour-based violence are a bigger problem in Dorset than most people think.

Karma Nirvana and the Dorset Police Forced Marriage Unit will be raising awareness of the issues at a roadshow in Poole today (Thursday 5 June), as local organisations prepare for forced marriage to be criminalised.

More than 550 professionals and community leaders from across Dorset will attend the fully-booked event, which is set to be Karma Nirvana's biggest UK roadshow.

The roadshow will be hosted by the Safer Poole Partnership and Dorset Police at Poole Lighthouse. It will focus primarily on the new forced marriage law, which will take effect on 16 June.

Speakers will include Jasvinder Sanghera CBE, founder and CEO of Karma Nirvana, and Chaz Akoshile, Joint Head of the Forced Marriage Unit. Every roadshow is also attended by a survivor speaker who will share her real life experiences. The survivor is also a member of the Karma Nirvana Survivor Ambassador Panel.

Members of the public can follow along and ask questions on Twitter between 10am and 1pm using the hashtag #KNRDorset.

Dorset Police conducted more than 20 forced marriage and honour-based violence investigations between April 2013 and March 2014, although these offences are believed to be widely under-reported.

Detective Chief Inspector Jez Noyce, Dorset Police's Serious Crimes Investigations Manager, said:

"People often think that forced marriage and honour-based violence do not happen here in Dorset, primarily because the populations normally affected by these crimes are relatively small.

"However, as we have seen in other parts of the country, this means that potential victims could actually be at greater risk because they are far more isolated.

"We want to challenge people's perceptions so that those affected by these crimes feel that they can come forward and seek help.

"Dorset Police will take any reports of honour-based violence and forced marriage seriously and will deal with all reports in confidence."

Councillor Elaine Atkinson, Leader of the Council and Chair of the Safer Poole Partnership, Borough of Poole, said:

"I am delighted that Poole is hosting such a significant event. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, which just shows how important and relevant this subject is.

"Many of the front-line workers attending this event will have to deal with these issues at some point in their careers so it is essential that they are able to identify and support those at risk."

A spokesperson from Karma Nirvana said:

"Forced Marriage becomes a criminal offence for the first time in England & Wales which means for the first time a victim can call it a crime in its own right. This is historical and means that those convicted can be sentenced for up to 7 years and the breech of forced marriage protection orders will become a criminal offence.  

"Our Roadshows will raise awareness about the new law and what public bodies need to be considering this is in the back drop of the Chief Inspector of Police forces-Tom Winsor announcing that FM/HBV is going to be inspected this year."

Foreign Office Minister Mark Simmonds and Home Office Minister of State for Crime Prevention Norman Baker said:

"Forcing a woman or girl into marriage is a serious abuse of human rights and robs her of the right to choose her own future. The UK leads the world in tackling early and forced marriage, and that is why we are taking decisive action to criminalise it. We are delighted that the Forced Marriage Unit and Karma Nirvana are working together to deliver these essential roadshows.

"It is crucial that professionals understand the new legislation to help them protect and empower victims of forced marriage and those at risk."

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