Swedish girls fearing forced marriage told to hide spoon in underwear

LONDON, May 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Swedish city is advising girls who fear being taken abroad for forced marriage or female genital mutilation (FGM) to tuck a spoon in their underwear before going through airport security.

Airport staff in Gothenburg have been told how to respond in such circumstances, said Katarina Idegard, who is in charge of tackling honor-based violence in Sweden's second biggest city.

"The spoon will trigger metal detectors when you go through security checks," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "You will be taken aside and you can then talk to staff in private."

"It is a last chance to sound the alarm," Idegard added.

There is no data on the number of girls taken abroad for forced marriage, but Idegard said a national hotline received 139 calls last year about child marriage or forced marriage.

RELATED: Kalas Girls Primary School, a safe haven for girls escaping female genital mutilation

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Kalas Girls Primary School, a safe haven for girls escaping female genital mutilation
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Kalas Girls Primary School, a safe haven for girls escaping female genital mutilation
Magdalene Nantongo (C), head teacher of Kalas Girl's primary school, which hosts escaped girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, poses with students in Amudat town, northeast Uganda, on January 31, 2018. The UN estimates that over 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM which is a life-threatening procedure that involves the partial or total removal of a woman's external genitalia. February 6, 2018, marks the 6th International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. / AFP PHOTO / Yasuyoshi CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
Magdalene Nantongo, head teacher of Kalas Girl's primary school, which hosts escaped girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, poses in Amudat town, northeast Uganda, on January 31, 2018. The UN estimates that over 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM which is a life-threatening procedure that involves the partial or total removal of a woman's external genitalia. February 6, 2018, marks the 6th International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. / AFP PHOTO / Yasuyoshi CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - This photo taken on January 31, 2018 shows a message plate at Kalas Girl's primary school, which hosts escaped girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) or child marriage, at Amudat town, northeast Uganda. The UN estimates that over 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM which is a life-threatening procedure that involves the partial or total removal of a woman's external genitalia. February 6, 2018, marks the 6th International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. / AFP PHOTO / Yasuyoshi CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
Students of Kalas Girl's primary school, which hosts escaped girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, pose in Amudat town, northeast Uganda, on January 31, 2018. The UN estimates that over 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM which is a life-threatening procedure that involves the partial or total removal of a woman's external genitalia. February 6, 2018, marks the 6th International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. / AFP PHOTO / Yasuyoshi CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
KARAMOJA, UGANDA - 2018/02/01: A 12-year-old shows scars she received when relatives beat her after she tried to escape from a marriage to a much older man. She's now in school at Kalas Girls Primary School, Amudat District, Karamoja, Uganda. Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been outlawed in Uganda since 2010, but aid workers and police say it's still being practiced by tribes in the northeast, including the Pokots, Sebei, Tepeth and Kadama. (Photo by Sally Hayden/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
KARAMOJA, UGANDA - 2018/02/01: Girls sit in the yard at Kalas Girls Primary School, Amudat District, Karamoja, Uganda. They each escaped home after their families tried to force them to undergo FGM or to enter into an early marriage. Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been outlawed in Uganda since 2010, but aid workers and police say it's still being practiced by tribes in the northeast, including the Pokots, Sebei, Tepeth and Kadama. (Photo by Sally Hayden/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Program Analyst of United Nations Population Fund Esther Cherop (R) speaks with girls who escaped from female genital mutilation (FGM) or child marriage, at Kalas Girl's primary school at Amudat town in the northeast of Uganda on January 31, 2018. The UN estimates that over 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM which is a life-threatening procedure that involves the partial or total removal of a woman's external genitalia. February 6, 2018, marks the 6th International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. / AFP PHOTO / Yasuyoshi CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
Magdalene Nantongo, head teacher of Kalas Girl's primary school, which hosts escaped girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, speaks on the phone to accept a new girl to the school, in Amudat town, northeast Uganda, on January 31, 2018. The UN estimates that over 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM which is a life-threatening procedure that involves the partial or total removal of a woman's external genitalia. February 6, 2018, marks the 6th International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. / AFP PHOTO / Yasuyoshi CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Students of Kalas Girl's primary school, which hosts escaped girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, sit near a messagee place in Amudat town, northeast Uganda, on January 31, 2018. The UN estimates that over 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM which is a life-threatening procedure that involves the partial or total removal of a woman's external genitalia. February 6, 2018, marks the 6th International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. / AFP PHOTO / Yasuyoshi CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
Students of Kalas Girl's primary school, which hosts escaped girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, pose in Amudat town, northeast Uganda, on January 31, 2018. The UN estimates that over 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM which is a life-threatening procedure that involves the partial or total removal of a woman's external genitalia. February 6, 2018, marks the 6th International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. / AFP PHOTO / Yasuyoshi CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
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Activists will encourage other cities to follow Gothenburg's lead and adopt the spoon initiative to protect girls, she added.

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.

Forced marriage and FGM are illegal in Sweden, even if carried out abroad, and punishable by prison terms.

In 2016, a father was convicted of forcing his daughter to marry against her will after tricking her into making a trip to Afghanistan.

In another case in 2014, a 14-year-old girl whose father had taken her to Ethiopia to marry an older cousin was rescued after asking a school counselor for help via Facebook.

Idegard said a 2015 study found up to 38,000 girls and women living in Sweden may have undergone FGM - with victims including women born in Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt and Gambia. (Editing by Kieran Guilbert

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