"The bleep at airport security may be the last chance they get"
August 15, 2013 8:21 PM   Subscribe

Spoon in underwear saving youths from forced marriage. "As Britain puts airport staff on alert to spot potential victims of forced marriage, one campaigning group says the trick of putting a spoon in their underwear has saved some youngsters from a forced union in their South Asian ancestral homelands."

Also reported in The Guardian, Saudi Gazette -- "The spoon trick is the brainchild of the Karma Nirvana charity, which supports victims and survivors of forced marriage and honor-based abuse." Karma Nirvana -- "Supporting all victims of honour based abuse and forced marriage."
posted by kmennie (14 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
How's that for a "the street finds its own uses for things"?
posted by kandinski at 9:14 PM on August 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

"One weird trick to save you from a forced marriage"
posted by zscore at 9:14 PM on August 15, 2013 [49 favorites]

So, won't parents just pat down their kids before reaching the airport, now? Seems like publicizing this method is likely to foil it.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 9:39 PM on August 15, 2013 [8 favorites]

Besides their age, many presumably don't even know they're going to be married off until they arrive. But it doesn't have to be a universal solution to be worthwhile.

There is, I suppose, a small danger that the US government will demand and get your immediate extradition to face charges as a dangerous spoon terrorist.
posted by Segundus at 12:54 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you go on to train airport staff that a conspicuously odd (and non-dangerous) metal object is a problem sign (spoon in underwear, coins in mouth, keys in the shoes/socks, chunky keyring in the armpit) which should trigger appropriate action, this could be a really useful trick. Sure, criminals may try to search them, but there are so many opportunities to grab something.

And it's less intimidating than shouting for help in an airport, not knowing what the result will be.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 1:02 AM on August 16, 2013 [8 favorites]

UK stats for 2012:

The UK's Forced Marriage Unit gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1,485 cases.

Where the age was known, 13% involved victims below 15 years, 22% involved victims aged 16-17, 30% involved victims aged 18-21, 19% involved victims aged 22-25, 8% involved victims aged 26-30, 8% involved victims aged 31+. The oldest victim was 71 and the youngest was 2.

- 82% involved female victims and 18% involved male victims.

- The Forced Marriage Unit handled cases involving 60 different countries, including Pakistan (47.1%), Bangladesh (11%), India (8%), Afghanistan (2.1%), Somalia (1.2%), Turkey (1.1%), Iraq (1%), Iran (0.9%), Nigeria (0.9%), Sri Lanka (0.9%), Egypt (0.6%), Saudi Arabia (0.6%), Yemen (0.6%), The Gambia (0.5%), Morocco (0.5%), and Ukraine (0.5%). The origin was unknown in 7.7% of cases.

The spoon trick is positive but the very tip of the iceberg. Catching someone at risk at a port of exit is a lot better than not catching them, of course. But by the point it's got that far the victim has no point of return insofar as the life they formerly led with their family and community and there may well have been a pattern of abuse predating the marriage arrangements.

The catchpoints, monitoring and reporting frameworks, and education programs for both victims and their families need to be earlier and more embedded because forced marriage is only part of the picture, conviction rates are still low and sentences are only two years for breaching a forced marriage protection order.

So called honour-based abuse and violence is more prevalent. There were around 3,000 cases of honour-based abuse in the UK alone in 2012. 234 cases made it to court, of which 50% saw convictions. Given likely rates of underreporting that's still a lot of victims, nearly half of which is within the wider British Pakistani community.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:25 AM on August 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

Why not just get to Heathrow and yell out "this mofo is forcing me to get married"?

In which dialect of their language?

Generally, whenever someone armchair-ishly suggests that some other person solve a complex and threatening situation by "just doing X" consider that X has been most certainly thought about already and possibly tried, likely to mixed effect. And how can these children know to trust the airport workers at Heathrow? What have they been told about what will happen to them, and how many of them have come from countries where asking the police for help is generally a bad idea?
posted by jokeefe at 7:27 AM on August 16, 2013

jokeefe, these are children who grew up in the UK who are being taken away to other countries for forced marriages, so I'm pretty sure they know how to speak English.
posted by peacheater at 7:35 AM on August 16, 2013

*facepalm* Sorry, skimming Mefi at breakfast and not reading links. But I still think that saying "why don't they just" isn't all that helpful.
posted by jokeefe at 7:49 AM on August 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Why not just get to Heathrow and yell out "this mofo is forcing me to get married"?

Because they've been conditioned all their lives not to do anything that might put their father in a position to lose face.

Because the spoon scenario allows Heathrow security to whisk the girl quickly away, leaving the father to confront security rather than his daughter. (Losing face to a uniformed officer is nowhere near as big a deal as losing face by the disrespectful behavior of one's own daughter.)
posted by ocschwar at 7:57 AM on August 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

Why not just get to Heathrow and yell out "this mofo is forcing me to get married"?

In which dialect of their language?
I'm pretty sure that yelling something loudly, in ANY dialect, will get you whisked away quickly. But the problem with that these are individuals who have, for lack of a better word, been abused... we could just outright say "well why didn't you yell out" for any number of victims. But that still doesn't make it a great plan.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:17 AM on August 16, 2013

The charity is working with airports — so far London Heathrow, Liverpool and Glasgow, with Birmingham to come — to spot potential signs, such as one-way tickets, the time of year, age of the person and whether they look uncomfortable.

“These are quite general points, but there are things that if you look collectively lead you to believe something more sinister is going on,” said Rattu.

It seems pretty clear that what they're trying to do is beyond simply telling children to put spoons in their underwear if they are being forced into marriage.

If this organization is getting the word out about the spoon thing, now more children know that there is someone at the airport who can potentially help them.
posted by inertia at 8:49 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Forced marriage is a criminal offense in the UK.
Britain's monarch Queen Elizabeth has got the UK government to introduce a new legislation that will make forced marriages punishable by law.

Parents found coaxing their children into wedlock may be sent prison.

Britain's home secretary Theresa May said the government has now strengthened the protection for victims of forced marriage by making it a criminal offence.

May said, "Forced marriage is little more than slavery. It is an appalling form of abuse and by criminalizing it we are sending out a clear message that this practice is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the UK."
I love how the Times of India uses the word "coaxing", like the parents are walking in front of their young daughter with a tempting plate of burfi as a reward for getting on the plane.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:03 AM on August 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

India still has a way to go. See also: 'eve teasing', which sounds rather quaint. We know it as 'sexual harassment.'
posted by MuffinMan at 5:31 AM on August 17, 2013

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