UK: SCHOOLS FEAR THAT FORCED MARRIAGE POSTER CAMPAIGN WILL UPSET PARENTS
ON MARCH 17, 2008
Schools in areas feared to have high rates of forced marriage are refusing to display posters on the issue because they are too hard-hitting, according to a government report.
Headteachers are unwilling to put up the posters for fear that they might offend some parents. The disclosure came in findings from the Department for Children, Schools and Families showing that 2,089 pupils were absent from school without explanation in 14 areas of England believed to have a high incidence of forced marriage.
A paper from the department released by the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee found that in Luton cards had been issued rather than posters while in Derby most schools were unaware of the poster produced by the forced marriage unit.
“In Birmingham, the poster had not been displayed as schools felt that the graphics are ‘too hard-hitting’.
“Some schools in Leeds are displaying the posters but others are concerned that they may offend some of their parents,” the paper said.
The areas highlighted by the forced marriage unit as having a “high incidence” of forced marriage are Derby, Leicester, Luton, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest, Middlesbrough, Manchester, Blackburn with Darwen, Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford and Lancashire. The report found that 2,089 children were “not in receipt of suitable education” including 250 in Birmingham, 155 in Bristol, 121 in Derby, 520 in Leeds, 294 in Leicester, 385 in Manchester and 66 in Luton.
But it is not clear how many of these children might have been taken out of school and forced into marriage. Some are being educated at home, some families have moved without leaving a forwarding address and other children are truants. MPs on the committee are now to seek extra information.
Margaret Moran described schools’ resistance to displaying the posters as shocking. She said: “People just don’t want to talk about it.
“This can involve violence, rape, kidnap – what more important issue can there be? The cultural thing is just a big smokescreen.”
Martin Salter, another Labour member of the committee, said that the problem was “much bigger than people realise. There has been a culture of silence for far too long. There are far too many local authorities being lily-livered about addressing this issue.”
The department said that it was up to schools to decide what posters to display depending on circumstances but urged them to make such material available. “Posters are just one mechanism to get the message across.”
Source: The Times – 14 March 2008