A woman who says she endured almost two years of abuse at the hands of her husband will urge other survivors to seek help when she speaks at a West Midlands Police conference on forced marriage and honour-based abuse.
Kalbir Bains, from Birmingham, was 27-year-old when she agreed to an arranged marriage in 2007 – but she’s told how within two months of tying the knot she was subjected to assaults, told what to wear and even discovered her home phone line had been ‘tapped’.
The fashion designer escaped the marriage after 19 months and has now written a book, based on her experiences, in which she talks candidly about issues such as gender inequality, domestic abuse and honour-based abuse.
Kalbir (pctured) is one of several speakers taking part in the conference on Friday (14 July) – a day commemorating “honour killing” victims on what would have been the birthday of Cheshire student Shafilea Ahmed who was murdered by her parents for rejecting a forced marriage.
July is also a key month for professionals and communities to be vigilant as it’s often a time when young people are taken abroad to be married against their will.
Kalbir said: “There needs to be a change in the South Asian community…women need to be empowered to speak out about sensitive issues, abuse that goes on behind closed doors, and understand there is help out there.
“I’m a confident woman, with a professional career that allowed me to travel abroad on business. When we were dating everything was OK – but as soon as I adopted the family name I was expected to behaviour in a subservient way.
“I was told what was acceptable to wear, my post was opened, the door locks were changed in the home that I lived in and I was assaulted on at least three occasions. I finally decided enough was enough and left – but it wasn’t easy.
“There are countless other women enduring the same as I did across the West Midlands and the country. No-one should be expected to suffer like this and put up with abuse for fear of somehow damaging ‘family honour’.
“I know people who have enjoyed successful, happy arranged marriages. Mine was not one of them, though, and I found myself in a very bad situation – but I broke free and now have a positive outlook for the future. I’d urge other survivors to seek help from the police and support agencies to also escape the abuse.”
Kalbir’s book – entitled “Not Our Daughter” – is due for general release later this year with proceeds going to charity.
Other speakers at the conference – part of the Our Girl campaign – include:
• Nazir Afzal, former NW England Chief Prosecutor and the man who brought charges against the Rochdale Asian grooming gang;
• Forced Marriage Unit senior caseworker Sophie Lott;
• Polly Harrar, CEO at the Sharan Project, a charity that supports vulnerable women;
• Coventry support groups CRASAC and Coventry Haven
• LaRisha Porter, Deputy Head & Young People from Bordesley Green Girls School.
There will also be a special performance from Mizan the Poet who will perform his poem Death before Dishonour.
Sergeant Trudy Gittins, West Midlands Police Subject Matter Expert for Forced Marriage & Honour-Based Abuse, said: “Forced marriage is often linked to other crimes like sexual abuse, domestic abuse and domestic servitude. In the case of Shafilea Ahmed, in the very worst circumstances, it can lead to murder.
“The police cannot tackle these issues alone and this event is about empowering our own staff, partner agencies and communities to identify the signs and do more to give victims the choices they so desperately need.
“We know forced marriage is not just specific to one community and knows no boundaries in terms of culture, class, religion, wealth, geography, gender or class. It cuts across all of those. West Midlands Police are committed to supporting victims and working with affected communities to prevent forced marriage.
“We really do appreciate how difficult it is for victims to speak out against what is often their family who is putting them at risk– but we have specially trained officers who will guide and support victims to help free them from forced marriages or take action to prevent one occurring.”
Attendees at the conference – at West Midlands Police’s Tally Ho, Edgbaston, base – will be encouraged to show their support for #RememberShafelia by wearing a henna tattoo on the day reading ‘Say no to forced marriage’ and share photos across social media.
Anyone seeking help or support can contact West Midlands Police’s Public Protection Unit on 101, speak to the Sharan Project on 0844 504 3231 or contact the Forced Marriage Unit on 0207 008 0151.
Source:: West Midlands Police News