A victim of so-called honour-based abuse will urge others to seek help when she speaks at a conference in Birmingham.
Kalbir Bains, from Birmingham, was 27-year-old when she agreed to an arranged marriage in 2007 – but within two months of tying the knot she was subjected to assaults, told what to wear and found 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
She is one of a number of speakers at the West Midlands Police conference at Tally Ho in Edgbaston today (July 14th).
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.”
Other speakers include Nazir Afzal, the former NW England chief prosecutor who brought charges against a child grooming gang in Rochdale, and Polly Harrar, CEO at the Sharan Project charity that helps to support vulnerable women.
Sergeant Trudy Gittins, West Midlands Police’s expert on honour-based abuse, said: “Forced marriage is often linked to other crimes like sexual abuse, domestic abuse and domestic servitude.
“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.
“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.”