According to our experiences with girls and young women threatened by forced marriage, we have phrased some recommendations for disseminators, specialists and assistants (e.g. aunt, cousin, sister in law, liaison teachers). Such information should be considered as assistance to show new possibilities and to give some tips, allowing girls and young women threatened by forced marriage to be supported and showing at the same time which alternative can be offered.
EACH GIRL HAS HER OWN STORY AND PERSONAL SITUATION
With counselling and supporting processes in case of threatening forced marriage it is important to realise the individual situation of the girls and young women concerned and to react in a culture considering way. That means that moral concepts and the respective living conditions of the girls have to be respected. Moreover, it is important to act patiently and deliberately. You should note that overhasty acting or quick decisions may worsen the situation of the girls.
Often wedding plans are announced. Girls may realise certain early signs. Possible indices for a forced marriage are:
- The girl has got foreboding that something awkward will happen soon.
- She is concerned about having turned older and her developing femaleness. Therefore she is afraid of being forced to get married soon.
- She is given lots of attention, being offered special gifts such as e.g. new dresses or a ring.
- There are lots of foreign people visiting her family’s place – or even regular visits of close relatives.
- She is restricted to her daily life, e.g. she is no longer allowed to go to school.
- She is threatened and blackmailed.
- She is in immediate danger, i.e. there are certain indices for physical violence.
IN SUCH A SITUATION THE GIRLS AND YOUNG WOMEN NEED A PATIENT PERSON LISTENING TO THEM
Following discussion rules are useful and should be considered:
- First of all, you should assure the girls or young women that they will benefit of patience, anonymity and assistance.
- Transparency and agreements are important for counselling; each step should be discussed.
- Do not try to convince the girls or young women of your own moral concepts. Make clear that no decisions will be taken without their consent and that any further steps will be agreed with them beforehand.
- In case of any dangerous situation due to which they require some assistance, you should get some advice and assistance with the online counselling service for protection against forced marriage.
To visit families and relatives is particularly difficult and problematic. If a girl does not want to return to her family, it is first of all important to provide her a safe accommodation. Any discussions with her family or discussions to mediate between the parties concerned come second at that stage. Those girls often do not expect or believe that something could change regarding their families. They do not trust their parents and relatives and are afraid of them. You should take such concerns of a girl most serious. Many girls do not want that the police is involved, as they will no longer be protected, as soon as the police has left the house. Afterwards, they have to stand the trouble with their family, pressure and violence.
Many girls will even be more controlled, defamed and tyrannised as a consequence of visits to their place by police, Jugendamt [Department of Youth and Family Services) or the school. The „well-intentioned“ mediation attempts with the family will result in unbearable consequences; afterwards they will have to suffer much more than before. Therefore, please ask confidents for assistance and support! Detailed discussions with the online counselling service for protection against marriage or the responsible Jugendamt [Department of Youth and Family Services] are useful and required!
For the individual professional categories and supporting persons we recommend the following information and rules how to treat girls and young women immediately affected by forced marriage:
Teaching staff and employees of the open youth work should carefully talk to the girls, developing confidence in the event of suspension or knowledge of a forced marriage. It is most important to act deliberately and to discuss the concrete proceeding with the girl. You should protect anonymity and confidence of the girl!
Do not state any personal data of the girl, when you discuss any information with other persons (Jugendamt, specialists etc.) regarding the further proceeding. Do not inform the parents of the girl, as this – as described above – could have bad consequences for the girl affected. The protection of the girl rank first!
The possibilities of the Jugendamt include the whole legal possibilities of assistance and intervention of the Kinder- und Jugendhilfe [child-welfare]. Any counselling discussions with the girl should generally take place with a confidant (e.g. employee of a counselling centre, teacher, friend) of the girl affected. If parents are prepared to discuss, you can show them that the welfare of the girl is in danger. If requested, another mediator from the individual culture can be involved during discussions with parents (intercultural office, persons of the community, relatives supporting the girl).
Here, particular sensibility is required: If the girl does not wish her parents to participate (e.g. with mediating or clarifying discussions), such a decision has to be considered.
During counselling you should discuss the situation within her family with the girl. You should show the girl different possibilities and give her enough time to talk about her reasons why she left her family, including the scenario what can happen, if she decides to terminate the relation to her family. If such a girl contacts her family again after she has left it, her life may be in danger as a consequence.
In most cases the concerned know that they might have to live anonymously without any contact to their family. It must get clear that the employees of the Jugendamt support the girls and want and/ or are able to care for their protection. Each possibility of support has to be discussed and decided with the girls.
If any attempts to discuss with the family are not successful and the girl continues to experience any further pressure and violence, it can be entrusted in the care of the responsible Jugendamt according to § 42 SGB VIII, i.e. preliminarily accommodated by suitable persons or institutions. Such a step, however, has to be well explained to the girl. Here, it is especially important to what extent the concerning accommodation is safe and suitable. Often girls of full age being threatened by forced marriage are accommodated in women’s refuges to protect them. Under certain circumstances, however a women’s refuge is not suitable and appropriate for a girl of eighteen or twenty, as the requirements and need for support of such young women are not always considered sufficiently there.
The individually best solution for the girl or the young woman has to be found and implemented. She has the right to a self-determined life without any violence.
LINKS / ASSISTANCE IN NRW
If you need some local assistance in the city you live and further information, you will find a detailed address list here: Links + Assistance in NRW. Or contact us through our online counselling service.