Support groups are springing up. The Henna Foundation is based in Cardiff and Jasvinder Sanghera, who fled a forced marriage and made a new life for herself, set up a charity called Karma Nirvana in Derby after her sister Robina killed herself to escape the misery of her loveless marriage.
When it opened its helpline in April 2008, Karma Nirvana received 4,000 calls in the first year and is now taking 300 calls a month from people under threat of honour-based violence, often linked to forced marriage.
After the government’s forced marriage unit was set up in April last year, it received 5,000 calls and rescued 400 victims in the first six months.
“It’s rare for [one person] to take unilateral action, it’s all done in consultation and there is logistical support and collusion in the extended community,” said Detective Chief Inspector Gerry Campbell of the Metropolitan police. “It’s not uncommon to have bounty hunters out hunting down young people who have left forced marriages or fled from a family where they are at risk.
Diana Nammi, who runs the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation in London, said, “Those who are lagging behind now are the religious leaders. They may pay lip service to change but they have networks and contacts and they are not trying to change anything. Sharia courts are letting Muslim women down and I am sorry to say that the British government is turning a blind eye to these courts. We have civil laws that cover every individual; none of these religious courts provide the same rights and protections for women.”
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