Helping Someone Escape Forced Marriage, Child Marriage, and/or Honour Killing – A Basic Safety Checksheet for Friends and Family
Forced marriages and honour killings are often intertwined. Marriage can be forced to save honour, and women can be murdered for rejecting a forced marriage.
The issue of ‘honour’ is also one of links with the community. Unlike domestic violence, a woman who runs away from a forced marriage or honour killing will be severing links with her family and her culture. There may be no help coming from those parties.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but here are a range of recommendations for assisting a woman or girl fleeing a forced marriage and/or an honour killing if she comes to you for help:
- Don’t underestimate the family’s desire to avenge their honour by killing their daughter(s).
- Never reject a girl or send her away. It may be the last time you see her alive.
- Never seek advice from ‘community leaders’; they may seem progressive, but may not speak honestly on the taboo subject of honour.
- Do not allow a friend, or relative of the victim to be your interpreter. They could mislead both you and the victim.
- Do NOT attempt mediation.
- Anonymity is fundamental. Some families hire bounty hunters or assassins to kill their children. You must never discuss them or their whereabouts.
- Never contact the family. It will result in the girl facing stricter surveillance and even violence.
- Address practical issues: how to keep hold of/get back the passport for example.
- Maintain discreet contact. Check school times and use a password or safe word on the phone.
- You must follow the wishes of the girl, even those who will accept a forced marriage rather than make the break from their families.
- When a girl asks for help, never speak to her in the presence of her family.
- For girls under 18, seek help from Child Protection services if they are available in your area or country.
- Refer her to and ensure she reaches ‘friendship networks’ for survivors facing isolation.
- Do not approach the family unless the individual expressly asks you to do so.
- Do not approach community leaders unless requested to do so by the individual.
- Do not share information with anyone without the express consent of the individual.
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Additional Reading and Resources
- 16 Ways of Preventing and Intervening in Child Marriages
- 16 Organisations Working to End Child Marriage
For additional assistance
- Child marriage: Contact Girls Not Brides – a coalition of organisations and grassroots groups working to eradicate child marriage worldwide.
- Forced marriage – Contact Unchained At Last – a U.S.-based nonprofit working to end forced marriages.
- Honour killing – Contact the AHA Foundation – a global nonprofit working to combat honour violence/killings.