Special workshop to discuss forced marriage held at UEL

Speakers Polly Harrar, DC Christine Roberts and Mandy Sanghera talking to students at the UEL Dockla

Speakers Polly Harrar, DC Christine Roberts and Mandy Sanghera talking to students at the UEL Docklands campus about forced marriage. - Credit: Archant

Students at the University of East London have joined the fight against forced marriage.

A special workshop took place at the university’s Docklands campus last week to discuss both causes and solutions to the issue.

Sociology lecturer Dr Jana Javornik explained that the university had around 40 students attend the session, which was “the culmination of two years’ preparation”.

“It was the first time we’ve done it, so we wanted a small group,” Dr Javornik said.

“We had both female and male students and all were engaged.

“It’s a predominantly female issue, but one of the statistics we were told is that 20 per cent of all cases have a male victim.”

The workshop saw representatives from the Metropolitan Police, the United Nations and charity The Sharan Project talk to students about the work each organisation does in tackling forced marriage.

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Polly Harrar, from The Sharan Project, said: “It’s important for us to engage with all young people, but particularly those of university age.

“Last year, 45 per cent of people forced into marriage were aged 16-25. We want to prevent it from happening.”

She added that the charity will continue to work with the university, returning later in the academic year to judge a debating competition that centres around the theme of forced marriage.

Staff have already taken part in safeguarding training sessions and the topic of forced marriage is set to become embedded into the curriculum.

Bockarie Koroma, a second year sociology with professional development student at UEL, said he learnt a lot from the workshop.

“There were a lot of things I didn’t know about, things that I wouldn’t have thought about before” he said.

“I think the issue of forced marriage can seem straightforward, but we need to be aware of different types of force and coercion and enticement to get girls and women, boys and men into marriages, promising them a better life.

“There was also a big focus on involving men as part of the solution, fathers and sons need to be educated, and tell each other that forced marriage is wrong.

“Men, including myself, should aspire to marry someone who wants to do it freely for love and with respect.”