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Forced marriage in the UK? It's a bigger problem than you think

To solve the problem, people must first acknowledge it, says Emily Dyer.

Last month, seven British survivors of ‘honour’ abuse and forced marriage spoke out in public about their experiences. They explained how it felt to be abused by those closest to them – their family and community members – in the name of ‘honour’. This marked the UK’s first ever Day of Memory for victims of ‘honour’ killings.

The survivors spoke about how their families’ rules, or ‘honour’ codes, forbade them from doing things that many of us take for granted, from texting a boy to wearing make-up. They talked about how they were made to feel as though this was normal, and that the abuse that resulted from breaking these ‘honour’ codes was their own fault. Some talked about how they felt as though they had nowhere to go as no one outside their community was listening or willing to believe them.

As part of my latest report, Britain’s Forgotten Women: Speaking to Survivors of ‘Honour’-Based Abuse, these women provide a range of personal insights into what is a national problem that affects men, women and children. Earlier this month it was revealed that, from 2010 to 2014, UK police have recorded over 11,000 cases of ‘honour’-based violence including beatings, abductions and even murders in a new study by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO). This problem stretches across the country, with cases recorded in every single police force in the UK over the five year period.

Yet, given the nature of this vastly underreported crime, the number of cases is still likely to be far higher. Many victims do not go to the police or when they do, forced marriage is not identified or reported. Diana Nammi, Executive Director at IKRWO, said: “unfortunately the figures do not even show the extent of the problem. So many crimes are never reported because the perpetrators are the victim’s own families and/community members”. Last year, Karma Nirvana – a national charity that supports all those affected by ‘honour’ abuse – received over 8,268 calls to their helpline, the majority of which were from victims themselves. This is thought by the group to be “the tip of the iceberg, as this abuse remains largely hidden”.

Despite the abhorrent nature of this abuse, there are still those determined to derail progress being made in fighting against it. They claim that talking about this form of abuse is in some way alienating minorities due to the fact that it predominantly takes place within South Asian communities. ‘Honour’-based abuse is not limited to one religion or culture, but this is surely beside the point. These are British men and women who deserve the same rights and roles in society as everyone else regardless of belief or background. To deny someone the same rights as other British citizens as a result of their culture or religion is as about as intolerant as it gets.

In fact, according to survivors themselves, the misguided fear of offending communities has often stood in the way of protecting and supporting victims. A survivor who has asked to be referred to as  Layla, says that “Despite rumours circulating about my engagement at school, my teachers never intervened-they just saw it as being part of my cultural practice”. According to another survivor, Sara, “the fear of offending communities remains unresolved. What many don't realise is that religion itself does not condone forced marriage or ‘honour’ abuse.” Jasvinder Sanghera, CEO and founder of Karma Nirvana and a survivor herself, agrees: “cultural acceptance does not mean accepting the unacceptable. It cannot be right that some groups of people are not afforded the same level of protection compared to their white counter parts on the basis of difference.”

Mistakes are currently made when professionals do not have the awareness needed to identify signs of ‘honour’ abuse. This does not mean racial profiling. It means having an understanding of a very real problem and how it works. For example, common child protection procedures would advocate family reconciliation. However, given that perpetrators of ‘honour’ abuse and forced marriage are often family members this would likely to put the victim at far greater risk than before. Consider cases of paedophilia as an example – would any professional in their right mind send the victim back to the paedophile to work out their differences? Without knowing the basics about what ‘honour’ abuse is, professionals are likely to think they are simply following normal procedure and doing the right thing by the victim and their family.

These common mistakes in care are often due to a lack of awareness rather than willingness to help victims. There are police forces and schools who been proactive in seeking out or accepting training from groups like Karma Nirvana. However, there are still those who are dragging their feet. As a result, there is a gap in support for victims and survivors who are time and time again being let down by those whose job it is to protect and support them. It is only when achieving awareness becomes mandatory rather than an optional add-on that this trend can begin to reverse.

Emily Dyer is a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. She tweets as @erdyer1.

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Michael Carrick is the “Geordie Pirlo” that England misunderstood

The Manchester United legend’s retirement announcement should leave Three Lions fans wondering what if?

That it came in the months leading up to a World Cup arguably added an exclamation point to the announcement of Michael Carrick’s impending retirement. The Manchester United midfielder, who is expected to take up a coaching role with the club afterwards, will hang up his boots at the end of the season. And United boss Jose Mourinho’s keenness to keep Carrick at Old Trafford in some capacity only serves to emphasise how highly he rates the 36-year-old.

But Carrick’s curtain call in May will be caveated by one striking anomaly on an otherwise imperious CV: his international career. Although at club level Carrick has excelled – winning every top tier honour a player based in England possibly can – he looks set to retire with just 34 caps for his country, and just one of those was earned at a major tournament.

This, in part, is down to the quality of competition he has faced. Indeed, much of the conversation around England’s midfield in the early to mid-noughties centred on finding a system that could accommodate both box-to-box dynamos Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

As time went on, however, focus shifted towards trequartistas, advanced playmakers and those with more mobile, harrying playing styles. And the likes of Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley, Jordan Henderson and Dele Alli were brought into the frame more frequently than Carrick, whose deep-lying capabilities were not utilised to their full potential. That nearly 65 per cent of Carrick’s England caps have come in friendlies shows how undervalued he was. 

In fairness, Carrick does not embody similar characteristics to many of his England midfield contemporaries, including a laudable lack of ego. He is not blessed with lung-busting pace, nor is he enough of a ball-winner to shield a back four solo. Yet his passing and distribution satisfy world-class criteria, with a range only matched, as far as England internationals go, by his former United team-mate Paul Scholes, who was also misused when playing for his country.

Rather, the player Carrick resembles most isn’t English at all; it’s Andrea Pirlo, minus the free-kicks. When comparisons between the mild-mannered Geordie and Italian football’s coolest customer first emerged, they were dismissed in some quarters as hyperbole. Yet watching Carrick confirm his retirement plans this week, perfectly bearded and reflecting on a trophy-laden 12-year spell at one of world football’s grandest institutions, the parallels have become harder to deny.

Michael Carrick at a press event ahead of Manchester United's Champions League game this week. Photo: Getty.

Where other players would have been shown the door much sooner, both Pirlo and Carrick’s efficient style of play – built on patience, possession and precision – gifted them twilights as impressive as many others’ peaks. That at 36, Carrick is still playing for a team in the top two of the top division in English football, rather than in lower-league or moneyed foreign obscurity, speaks volumes. At the same age, Pirlo started for Juventus in the Champions League final of 2015.

It is ill health, not a decline in ability, which is finally bringing Carrick’s career to a close. After saying he “felt strange” during the second-half of United’s 4-1 win over Burton Albion earlier this season, he had a cardiac ablation procedure to treat an irregular heart rhythm. He has since been limited to just three more appearances this term, of which United won two. 

And just how key to United’s success Carrick has been since his £18m signing from Tottenham in 2006 cannot be overstated. He was United’s sole signing that summer, yielding only modest excitement, and there were some Red Devils fans displeased with then manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to assign Carrick the number 16 jersey previously worn by departed captain Roy Keane. Less than a year later, though, United won their first league title in four years. The following season, United won the league and Champions League double, with Carrick playing 49 times across all competitions.

Failing to regularly deploy Carrick in his favoured role – one that is nominally defensive in its position at the base of midfield, but also creative in providing through-balls to the players ahead – must be considered one of the most criminal oversights of successive England managers’ tenures. Unfortunately, Carrick’s heart condition means that current boss Gareth Southgate is unlikely to be able to make amends this summer.

By pressing space, rather than players, Carrick compensates for his lack of speed by marking passing channels and intercepting. He is forever watching the game around him and his unwillingness to commit passes prematurely and lose possession is as valuable an asset as when he does spot an opening.

Ultimately, while Carrick can have few regrets about his illustrious career, England fans and management alike can have plenty. Via West Ham, Spurs and United, the Wallsend-born émigré has earned his billing as one of the most gifted midfielders of his generation, but he’d never let on.

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman. He co-hosts the No Country For Brown Men podcast.