Assessing The Impact Of COVID-19 On People Vulnerable To, Or Already Experiencing, Forced Marriage

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Politics & International Relation

Abstract

COVID-19 and COVID-related decisions are having significant impacts on children and adults vulnerable to, and already experiencing, the crime of forced marriage. Our mixed-methods project will chart and understand this impact, inform evaluation of the UK's response to COVID-19, and shape on-going policy regarding the UK's pandemic response. We consider the uneven economic and social impact of the pandemic, and the ethical dimensions of unequal impacts of COVID-related decision-making, on this vulnerable group, and seek to impact how civil society and the voluntary sector support vulnerable people.

The government's Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) and the charity Karma Nirvana (KN) (which provides a national forced marriage helpline) have warned about the significant impact of the pandemic on forced marriage in the UK. We designed this project with both organisations, and will work with them to analyse quantitative and qualitative data about the impact of COVID-19 on those at risk of, or experiencing, forced marriage; and to record and analyse the challenges faced in the pandemic, evaluate the efficacy of mitigation strategies, and formulate new policies and practises for protection and response.

Within the first 6 months, we will have co-created an accurate account of the economic and social impact of COVID-19 and COVID-related decision-making on victims of forced marriage, and the ethical implications of unequal impacts. We will then continue to chart the changing risk environment, while co-developing policy reports and recommendations for the UK government (including FMU), NGO practice responses (including KN), and other stakeholders, to improve the on-going response to COVID-19 and build community resilience.
 
Description We have discovered that Covid-19 (and related restricitons) had a significant negative impact on calls to the government's Forced Marriage Unit, while at the same time causing a significant increase in calls to the naitonal helpline for honour based abuse and forced marriage (run by Karma Nirvana). In the same period, there was a significant decline in the number of forced marriage protection orders being applied for for people under the age of 18. Increases and declines in calls to the Forced Marriage Unit correlated with rises/falls in Covid-19 related death-rates and numbers of cases, but did not correlate with changes to the number of flights entering or leaving the country, which suggests that Covid-19 and Covid-related restrictions did not prevent all people planning to take someone out of the country for marriage from so doing (and data from the FMU for 2020 suggests a significant number of people were taken out of the country for the purpose of a forced marriage, restrictions on travel notwithstanding). Our findings also suggest that very different constitutencies of people contact the FMU and Karma Nirvana.
Exploitation Route Relevant policy units and service providers should be able to take forward our findings and put them to use regarding the impact of restrictions on people at risk of forced marriage, and folding this into future pandemic planning. People concerned about the prevalence of forced marriage in the UK, and which communities are more at risk, should be able to use our findings in work in this area. Our work contacting and mapping key stakeholders may also be of use in determining whether statutory guidance is being adhered to, and is fit-for-purpose (particularly in the light of forth-coming changes to the law in this area); and our timeline of relevant events may be of use to researchers interested more broadly in the impact of Covid-19, and what happened in the UK in 2020/2021.
Sectors Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other

URL https://forcedmarriageresearch.ac.uk/forced-marriage-and-covid-19
 
Description Our research regarding the potential negative impact of newly-imposed quarantine laws (in 2021) after international travel from "red list" countries led to the Chair of the House of Commons Select Committee writing to the Home Secretary about whether victims of forced marriage had been considered in the policy; whether their safety would be secured in quarantine accomodation, and in travelling to and from it; and whether their costs would be covered by the government as part of their repatriation. The Foreign Secretary responded that "the FMU has been fully operational throughout the pandemic ... The nature of the consular assistant offered is always tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. We have experienced additional challenges in assisting the repatriation of victims from some countries, such as where limited flights have operated or the country had travel restrictions in place. However, we have still be able to assist by carefully working through options with the victim and by providing support, often locally as well as from the UK". The FCDO had worked with their funded partner, Southall Black Sisters Trust "to ensure victims can quarantine in safe accomodation", and where "managed quarantine" was needed, "we have worked with police, Social Services and others to prioritise the safety of victims. This has included enabling victims to quarantine in a seperate hotel to family members or others who may pose a risk" (which was one of our primary concerns).
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Registered as an expert for new Area of Research Interest published jointly Home Affairs Select Committee and Women and Equalities Committee on Violence A
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
URL https://post.parliament.uk/area-of-research-interest-violence-against-women-and-girls/
 
Description Submitted Evidence to the Special Rapporteur for Contemporary Slavery, its causes and consequences.
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
URL https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Slavery/SRSlavery/Pages/minority-communities.aspx
 
Description Joined (through AHRC Nomination) Future Leaders Fellows Development Network 
Organisation United Kingdom Research and Innovation
Department Future Leaders Research Fellowship
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I joined this network in 2021, and have attended a series of on-line events on project management, leadership, networking with peers, and learning about improving policy-engagement. I have been appointed to the network's Advisory Panel (from January 2022), and to the Peer Review panel for their internal funding scheme.
Collaborator Contribution I have greatly benefitted from training and mentoring provided by this network.
Impact None as yet.
Start Year 2021
 
Description Karma Nirvana - ESRC COVID Rapid Response collaboration 
Organisation Karma Nirvana
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We are going to help process data from Karma Nirvana, and feed into their on-going policy on pandemic response.
Collaborator Contribution Karma Nirvana are acting as 'gatekeepers' for our work, introducing us to key stakeholders, particularly survivors of forced marriage, and allowing us access to their data.
Impact This research grant was written collaboratively, and Karma Nirvana contributed to the research design and research questions (two of their key members of staff are also Co-Investigators). They have invited both the PI and RA on their latest training for Honour Based Abuse, and we are running quarterly workshops with them to discuss data, analysis, findings and policy recommendations.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Appearance on BBC Wales programme on forced marriage 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact On 25 May I was interviewed for a BBC Wales programme about forced marriage (screened 26.5.21) and the impact of the pandemic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000whys/bbc-wales-live-26052021
 
Description Blog for Justice Everywhere 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I wrote a blog post for Justice Everywhere on forced marriage and COVID-19. I'm not sure how many people read the blog, but 1220 people saw my tweet about it on Twitter, and people engaged with it 16 times.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL http://justice-everywhere.org/international/forced-marriage-in-times-of-covid-19/
 
Description ESRC Festival of Social Science event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact I held an online event as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences. Over 30 people signed up, and over twenty attended. The talk was also recorded, to be shared later on my research website. The talk, which shared our findings so far, sparked good debate, and contact with another key stakeholder which we are following-up.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-impact-of-covid-19-on-people-at-risk-of-forced-marriage-in-the-uk...
 
Description Gave talk at Global Partners online event on COVID-19's impact on trafficked women and girls 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I was part of a panel of experts talking about the likely impact of COVID-19 on trafficking women and girls organised by Global Partners. This was broadcast live on YouTube, and also live-tweeted from their Twitter account.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZOHQYNbGys&feature=youtu.be&ab_channel=GPG
 
Description Hosted online event on impact of COVID-19 on efforts to combat human trafficking and modern slavery 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I am guest editing a special edition of Journal of Modern Slavery on the impact of COVID-19 on efforts to combat modern slavery and human trafficking. I hosted an online event for all the authors, which was accessible to the public via an Eventbrite sign-up. We had speakers from all around the world (stretching from time zones GMT-7 to GMT+10:30) and an audience of researchers, practitioners, philanthropic funding bodies, and members of the general public. The event was videoed, and we hope to share it on the journal website soon.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description International Women's Day Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact I gave a talk to 15+ students from the School of Politics and IR, and more generally the University of Nottingham, on forced marriage. This sparked questions and discussion afterwards, and requests to get involved with the research in future.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://twitter.com/NottsPolitics/status/1496884220043710464
 
Description Participated in Public Policy Exchange Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I spoke on a panel of experts (including Natasha Rattu, Payzee Mahmod, Charlotte Proudman, Pauline Latham MP, Hannah Siddiqui, and Baroness Judith Butler-Schloss) about preventing forced marriages, and improving identification and outcomes for victims, specifically about the impact of Covid-19 on these processes. There was good discussion in the Zoom chat and in Q&A, and a number of speakers and attendees reached out to me about the project afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://publicpolicyexchange.co.uk/event.php?eventUID=LF10-PPE&ss=bk&tg=bp1
 
Description Presenting as part of the University's Diversity Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I presented along with other colleagues from the Rights Lab with COVID-19 related projects on our research and findings so far to around 25 staff and students from University of Nottingham (not all academics) as part of our Diversity Fesitval. This was also open to the public, and so not everyone was necessarily at UoN. There was good discussion, especially around properly understanding trauma associated with forced marriage and modern slavery. Follow-up emails were promised from others working on trauma and psychology.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Quarterly Stakeholder Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We held the first of our planned stakeholder workshop with project partners. This allowed us to share data, discuss approaches to our methods and analysis, and plan next steps for the research project. It also led to our first publications - a research note on methodology and the first report from our data findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Second Quarterly Workshop - A workshop held at the Rights Lab, University of Nottingham, UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact This two-part workshop is the second of a series of quarterly workshops, which we promised as part of our mixed-methods project that looks to chart and understand the "impact of COVID-19 and COVID-related decision-making on people vulnerable to, and already experiencing, forced marriage, and on those tasked with tackling and preventing this crime". We held this second workshop with all project partners on 13 May 2021. We discussed our research progress, shared reflections on where we are in terms of the research progress and initial findings, and learnt from project partners about what Karma Nirvana and UK's Forced Marriage Unit doing as latest UK-wide lockdown has been eased. We also talked about what we can do as a next step after the lockdowns are lifted and schools have reopened.

This workshop was held with the full research team with representations from the UK Forced Marriage Unit, Karma Nirvana, and the Rights Lab.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Talk at Cambridge Policy Fellow's Seminar Series 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I was invited to give a talk to the Cambridge Policy Fellows Seminar Series on forced marriage.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.csap.cam.ac.uk/news/article-forced-marriage-fm-modern-slavery/
 
Description Talk given to Women's Staff Network, University of Nottingham 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 20 people attended a lunchtime seminar as part of the Women's Staff Network (not a network I had previously known about at the University) on my research project. This sparked a number of questions, including an invitation to speak about forced marriage to student teachers in our Department of Education on forced marriage and things they should know and/or look out for once they start their professional careers. I have now signed up to give a presentation to next year's cohort.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020