Forced marriage explored in new comic for school children

A new comic book has been designed to help children aged 13 to 16 understand the risks and signs of forced marriage and how to protect themselves from abuse.

The educational comic created by legal expert Dr Hannah Baumeister at Liverpool John Moores University and supported by research by Dr Helen McCabe at the University of Nottingham, aims to support teenagers to act as allies to those at risk or already experiencing forced marriage.

It is supported by Leeds-based charity Karma Nirvana, which runs an honour-based abuse helpline.

In 2022, around 300 people asked the UK Forced Marriage Unit for advice, one of three of them under-18.

Telltale signs such as a lack of independence, poor school grades, decline in behaviour and disappearing from social media are all featured in the book, which stresses that although forced marriages are more common in some communities, they can happen to people of any ethnicity, culture, religion and nationality.

The comic was developed with Savera UK, and two secondary schools - Nottingham Girls’ Academy and Childwall Sports and Science Academy, Liverpool. Both schools have trialled the comic in PSHE lessons with very positively reactions from students.

The team have also developed a teaching pack for education providers to allow them to teach students about the issues surrounding forced marriage and how to spot the signs in order to prevent it.

Sondos Bowker, a teacher in the North East, who is involved in enhancing the PSHE curriculum, said the comic and pack resources were “invaluable”.

“These resources go beyond merely addressing the topic, as they have enabled me to conduct curriculum reviews and effective training on how to approach this subject without resorting to sensationalism or perpetuating harmful stereotypes. I wholeheartedly endorse these resources as an essential tool for any educator committed to fostering a safe and informed learning environment.”

Dr McCabe, who worked on the research behind the comic, explained: “Forced marriage is a significant problem in the UK, despite recent changes to the law raising the age of legal marriage in England and Wales to 18. I am very excited about Hannah’s comic-book project and its potential to change lives in Nottinghamshire, and beyond.”

Dr Baumeister, of the LJMU School of Law, said of the project: “The law is there to help protect people by way of Forced Marriage Protection Orders and by criminalising forced marriage. However, not everyone knows this and even when they do, people might not want to report their experience. Therefore, support and advice delivered by expert organisations as well as education are key to prevent and end forced marriage.”

Affected young people, or those who suspect their friends may be victims of forced marriage, are encouraged to reach out to local police or school support services to report the issues. Support for victims of forced marriage can access support through charities that can provide education and financial support.

The following support services are available:

  • Childline (if you are a young person): call 0800 1111
  • Forced Marriage Unit: call 020 7008 0151, email
  • Karma Nirvana: call 0800 5999 247, Monday - Friday 9 am - 5 pm; email
  • The police: call 999 in an emergency situation; call 101 if it is not an emergency
  • Savera UK: call 0800 107 0726, Monday - Friday 10 am – 4 pm


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