UK Experts join Tahirih for Training and Briefing on Forced Marriage

Posted April 11, 2012

L to R: Someone, someone else, Jeanne Smoot (Tahirih), third person, fourth person, Heather Heiman (Tahirih)

L to R: Sumanta Roy (Imkaan), Marai Larasi (Imkaan), Jeanne Smoot (Tahirih), Khatun Sapnara (UK attorney and expert), Ella Shenhav (Mintz Levin), Heather Heiman (Tahirih)

(WASHINGTON, DC) – On March 2, 2012, Tahirih held a training for frontline service providers on identifying and supporting victims of forced marriage—the first training of its kind in the United States. It was followed by a briefing from guest experts on the United Kingdom’s innovative solutions to the problem of forced marriage in that country, and how these lessons may apply to this urgent issue we are facing in the United States.

One of the main challenges identified in Tahirih’s 2011 Survey on Forced Marriage in the United States is that many service providers working with victims do not know how to identify or respond to vulnerable women and girls facing forced marriages. These types of outreach and training events are essential to supporting Tahirih’s mission of educating the community about the varied types of violence faced by women and children in immigrant communities in this country. Tahirih was thrilled to facilitate the transfer of knowledge between our colleagues in the United Kingdom and our partner organizations in the United States.

Participants who attended the two events represented direct service providers, personnel from various federal agencies (including the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Justice), the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and advocates and activists from around the country.

Trainings focused on the underlying reasons for forced marriages, risks and barriers young women and girls facing forced marriages, and practical tips and guidance for practitioners responding to forced marriage cases. Leading advocates from the United Kingdom shared their efforts to craft legal and policy solutions to address the issue of forced marriage, and how their experiences—including challenges and debates around a forced marriage-specific Protection Order and criminalization of forced marriage—can inform the United States’ approach to this problem.

Presenters included Priya Chopra, Director of Saheli; Sameem Ali, survivor of forced marriage and Manchester Councilmember; Marai Larasi, Director of Imkaan; Khatun Spanara, a London-based attorney and judge with extensive experience in forced marriage cases; and Heather Heiman, Senior Public Policy Attorney at Tahirih and co-author of Tahirih’s groundbreaking survey on Forced Marriage in Immigrant Communities in the United States. The event was generously hosted by the Washington, DC office of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Glovsky, and Popeo PC.

The training and briefing were part of an ongoing series of webinars and trainings organized through Tahirih’s Forced Marriage Initiative. For information on future events, ongoing news, and policy developments on forced marriage in the United States, please sign up for Tahirih’s monthly Forced Marriage Newsletter.

This article is a part of Tahirih’s Spring 2012 Newsletter.