The Swedish city of Gothenburg is advising girls who fear that they will be taken abroad for a forced marriage or female genital mutilation (FGM) to tuck a spoon into their underwear before going through airport security.
Katarina Idegard, who is in charge of tackling honor-based violence in the city, says that airport staff have been trained on how to respond to these cases and that the spoon is “a last chance to sound the alarm.”
“The spoon will trigger metal detectors when you go through security checks. You will be taken aside and you can then talk to staff in private,” she explained.
While there is no Swedish data on the number of girls taken abroad for forced marriage, Idegard noted that a national hotline received 139 calls last year on child marriages and forced marriages.
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
The idea comes from British charity Karma Nirvana, which said the tactic had already saved a number of girls in Britain from forced marriage.
The charity said hiding a spoon in their underwear was a safe way for girls to alert the authorities, which was often difficult if they were constantly surrounded by family.
Idegard said the advice on hiding a spoon was part of a wider campaign to tackle honor-based violence in Gothenburg, which has a population of 1 million people.
Schools and social workers have been asked to be extra vigilant in the run-up to the summer holidays when girls from diaspora communities are more likely to be taken abroad.
“We are doing this now because the risks of forced marriage and FGM increase during the school holidays, especially the long summer break,” said Idegard.
Both forced marriage and FGM are illegal in Sweden, even if the act is carried out abroad, and offenders can be jailed.
The practice of taking girls abroad for a forced marriage has precedent in Sweden. In 2016, a father was convicted for forcing her daughter into marriage after tricking her into travelling to Afghanistan.
In a previous case from 2014, a 14-year-old girl whose father took her to Ethiopia to marry her cousin was rescued after she sought the help of a school counselor on Facebook.