Reuters is reporting that teachers need to be on the look out for signs that children are going to be taken abroad to be married or undergo female genital mutilation (FGM).
The end of the school term “marks the start of the cutting season where young girls are taken abroad and brutally mutilated by their families,” said Aneeta Prem, founder of Freedom Charity, which campaigns on forced marriage and FGM.
Girls threatened with forced marriage might appear anxious, depressed or withdrawn, lose interest in schoolwork or disappear from social networks such as Facebook, they said. They also may harm themselves or develop an eating disorder.
Teachers should be alert if a girl’s family suddenly restricts her movements, arranges for her to be escorted home from school by older brothers or if she says her parents are taking her on a holiday to meet someone, Prem said.
Comfort Momoh, one of the nation’s top FGM experts, said alarm bells should ring if a girl talks about going on holiday for a special ceremony or shows a marked change in behaviour following the summer break. FGM can cause chronic pain, infections and problems with urination and menstruation so teachers should be alert if a girl takes frequent toilet breaks, cannot sit comfortably on the floor and regularly misses school, Momoh said.
Katie Furniss, joint head of the FMU, which said it helped more than 1,200 people last year, warned that teachers and social workers should not try to mediate with the family in a forced marriage case and should contact authorities such as the FMU.
Would you notice the signs if a child was to be taken away to be forcibly married? Is this something you’ve experienced before in your school? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter. ~ Sophie
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