New police campaign aims to tackle illegal wedlock
West Midlands Police have launched their latest forced marriage campaign for the region with two flash mob performances in Birmingham New Street station.
Detective Sergeant Trudy Gittins, WMP’s subject matter expert on forced marriage said: “We’ve timed our new awareness raising campaign ahead of the school and university Christmas break, a time when young people may be taken abroad to be married, often under the guise of a holiday."
Dancing to Bruno Mars’ iconic love song ‘Marry You’ the flash mob - a mixture of professional dancers, student volunteers and off duty West Midlands Police Officers - launched the new campaign to hundreds of unsuspecting commuters, thrusting what is currently a hidden crime directly into the public eye.
Forced marriage happens when the bride, groom or both do not want to get married but are forced to by others, usually their families. People forced into marriage may be tricked into going abroad, physically threatened or emotionally blackmailed.
Detective Sergeant Gittins added: “According to statistics from the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit, here in the West Midlands we have the second highest number of forced marriage victims.
“We know that forced marriage knows no boundaries in terms of race, religion, culture, gender, class or geography and can happen to anyone, anywhere in the region.
“The message our flash mob gave out is clear. A marriage proposal is supposed to make you happy. If you don’t feel happy about getting married or are feeling under pressure to do so, then this is wrong and West Midlands Police can help you.”
Going abroad is a central theme of the campaign and West Midlands Police have been working with Birmingham Airport to have stickers displayed in airport toilets, encouraging people who have worries leaving the country, or arriving back here to call 101 or ask a member of staff.
Also making up the campaign is ‘Ask Arita’ - a mock problem page which can be found on West Midlands Police’s website with answers to a number of questions relating to the complex issue that is forced marriage.
There will also be a vlog style YouTube henna tutorial on WMP’s YouTube account with a very special message.
- Every week West Midlands Police receives a call from someone worried about forced marriage
- From the 50 calls WMP has received so far this year, 23 have been recorded as crimes
- Forced marriage charity Karma Nirvana receives the second highest number of calls from the West Midlands, after London