Forced marriage and honour killings must be tackled by social workers
Social work student speaks out about personal experience on Human Rights Day in bid to raise awareness
Professional Social Work magazine - 10 December, 2019
A social work student who escaped a forced marriage says she wants to speak out about her experience to improve understanding among professionals.
Kazia went into police protection for six months after fleeing her family fearful she would be a victim of an honour killing. Now on a social work Masters course, she believes more needs to be done so workers recognise the difference between culture and religion.
“My hand in marriage was given when I was four years old to my cousin on the day he was born,” she said.
“When I graduated from university my parents wanted to take me abroad. I knew it was wrong, but I was so used to the idea because I had been told from a young age what would happen.
“I was working for the police then and they got involved because they had intelligence that I would be killed.”
Kazia plans to put on a conference next year about forced marriage and honour-based violence and set up her own training consultancy.
She said: “I am ready now to speak about what happened 16 years ago. It is a hidden crisis. You will never get rid of it unless you speak about it.
“I know from people I have worked with there are guys in prison for murder who would rather be there than allow their daughters or sisters to do what they want to do. This is the honour killings happening in this country.”
Under the Anti-social behaviour, crime and Policing Act 2014 it is a crime to force someone to marry in England, Scotland and Wales, with separate legislation covering Northern Ireland.
Forced Marriage Protection Orders have been in use in England, Wales and Northern Ireland since 2008 and in Scotland since 2011.
The government’s Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 1,764 cases in 2018, a 47 per cent increase on 2017, the highest since it opened in 2011.
Kazia believes social workers and other professionals need better training at university and in work to tackle the crime. She also wants mandatory training for workers at the start of the long summer and Christmas holidays when victims are most likely to be taken abroad.
Now in her late 30s, Kazia has been disowned by her family and cut off from her community. She admits her experience has at times made her question the faith she was born into.
But she adds: “I went back and I read everything – and you know what, the religion is beautiful. It is not the religion, it is the culture. I am still 100 per cent Muslim and a proud one.”
Read Kazia's full story in December/January's edition of Professional Social Work magazine.
This article is published by Professional Social work magazine which provides a platform for a range of perspectives across the social work sector. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the British Association of Social Workers.