It may not be the most comfortable feeling but hiding a metal spoon in your underwear could save your life.
For years, this “spoon trick” has been known as a distress signal for women at risk of forced marriages overseas.
In 2013, Karma Nirvana, a campaign group in the UK, advised women and young girls to conceal metal spoons in their underwear to set off metal detectors so they can have more time to get help from authorities.
Natasha Rattu, Karma Nirvana’s operations manager, told the AFP news agency:
“If they don’t know exactly when it may happen or if it’s going to happen, we advise them to put a spoon in their underwear.
“When they go through security, it will highlight this object in a private area and, if 16 or over, they will be taken to a safe space where they have that one last opportunity to disclose they’re being forced to marry.”
The UK government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) revealed there is an estimated 1,500 to 5,000 British women and young girls who are forced into marriage every year and over a third of those are believed to be aged under 16.
Karma Nirvana also reported that it receives 6,500 calls a year from around Britain, and so they are working very hard to stop abuses on women.
Fortunately, the group’s effort to prevent women from being taken away overseas was proven to be so successful that just recently, it has been echoed in a tweet by PC Dave Wise, which now has more than 100,000 likes and retweets. He tweeted:
If you’re being taken abroad against your will for;
▪Honour Based Violence
🥄 HIDE A METAL SPOON IN YOUR UNDERWEAR 🥄
Metal detector will alert airport security who will secure your safety! pic.twitter.com/pV6yZFRFsF
— PC Dave Wise (@CopThatCooks) April 27, 2018
He added that although any metal object would do, “but ‘the spoon trick’ is something security are alert to.”
However, some people on social media were quick to comment about how revealing the spoon trick will give kidnappers an idea about the process and make plans to their advantage.
— Polyglot (@PolyglotCitizen) April 29, 2018
It’s catch 22 … You want to get this advice/idea to as many potential victims as possible to give them a chance to discreetly find help, but by giving them this advice/idea to the victims via social media you also warn the perpetrators of what might be happening.
— Tony Curren (@tonycurren) April 30, 2018
Although some people commended the efforts.
Always thought this was a simple but brilliant idea.
— Incognito (@Incogni37981052) April 28, 2018
Breaks my heart that this is even necessary. But good work. 💕💕
— Helen Caton Hughes (@helenrcaton) April 28, 2018
Meanwhile, Freedom Charity, an organisation in the UK which supports victims of forced marriages, FGM and dishonour on the family, has developed an app for potential victims of forced marriages or other abuses, which was launched in March 2013. It is also aimed at friends of those women who may be at risk and professionals such as teachers.
In Australia, while steps are being done to prevent forced marriages, there is still much work to be done.
Although it has been considered illegal in 2013, it still happens across social, cultural, and religious groups, and the Australian Federal Police have received 174 referrals.
Ruth Pilkinton, a solicitor at Legal Aid NSW, told SBS News that there are girls as young as 15 who are being forced by their parents to leave Australia to marry.
“Under the Commonwealth Criminal Code, it’s illegal for someone to force another person into marriage, and someone could be imprisoned for seven years, or even longer. And the Australian Federal Police assist people to access services to make sure that they’re protected,” she said.
If you are or if you know someone who is at risk of forced marriages, here are some of the organisations in Australia and in the UK that you can turn to for help.