Author: nikkigirvan

Joint Statement: Savera UK and Pride of Romany Condemn Ciudad Real Court Ruling

Earlier this month a court ruling in Ciudad Real, Spain, acquitted a 20-year-old man who impregnated a 12-year-old Romani girl with twins in 2022. Spanish laws prohibit minors under the age of 16 from consenting to sex, with any such action amounting to statutory rape.

Despite this, the court granted the man a legal exception, after finding the intercourse was “consensual”. It justified its decision to acquit the man stating: “”in Romani culture, this is normal behaviour.”

Savera UK and Pride of Romany unequivocally condemn this ruling and find the court’s decision to be deeply troubling.

Charmaine Abdul Karim, Founder of Pride of Romany, said: “This decision, justified under the guise of cultural norms, is deeply troubling and must be unequivocally condemned. As British Romany, we assert that abuse, in any form, is entirely contrary to our values and cultural norms as British Romanichal. We are shocked and dismayed that such abuse could be misconstrued as part of our culture.

“This case does not represent our tribal norms within the UK. Perpetrators must face the full extent of legal consequences. We echo Sara Giménez’s stance that Romany culture does not condone abuse or the violation of rights, and we stand resolutely against such egregious acts.”

Afrah Qassim, CEO and Founder of Savera UK, added: “This decision is deeply concerning. Despite there being laws in Spain that protect children from abuse, by prohibiting children under the age of 16 from consenting to sex, the court has failed this young girl by wrongly using perceived “cultural norms” to excuse what in law amounts to statutory rape.

“As an organisation committed to ending ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and all forms of harmful practice, Savera UK celebrates the beauty and importance of culture and traditions across all communities, and works to prevent it from being conflated with or used to excuse any form of abuse of violation of human rights, as it has in this case.”

Savera UK and Pride of Romany stand together in condemning this ruling. Together we steadfastly uphold principles that prioritise the protection of all people, regardless of their age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity or background against any form of abuse or violation of human rights.

We will continue to work together to stop this conflation of culture with abuse, and end HBA and all forms of harmful practices for good.

To seek help and advice, or for more information visit, follow @pride_of_romani on TikTok or email [email protected]



HBA: Educating the next generation of healthcare workers

The healthcare system and its frontline workers are often the first people to recognise signs of ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices in the UK. 

As well as providing training sessions for qualified professionals, Savera UK  recognises the importance of educating the next  generation of healthcare workers and has partnered with the University of Liverpool to achieve this.

Over the course of 12 weeks we invited final year medical students to join our Savera UK teams, including the Direct Intervention team to learn about HBA and harmful practices. During their time with us, our teams delivered  an awareness session, teaching them about indicators of ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices, who to report to and how. 

They then had the opportunity to sit in our weekly client sessions and see  the work we do in creating a safe space for all our clients, first hand. Finally,  students had the chance to understand more in-depth the services that we provide to survivors and those at risk, by observing our Direct Intervention team reviewing open cases. 

Speaking of their experience and what they learned, one of the students commented that they were surprised to hear that: “HBA and harmful practices don’t always come from a bad place, sometimes they are practised due to miseducation and cultural traditions.”

Another, Charmaine, told us that she had not been made aware that the legal age to marry had risen from 16 to 18 years old.

When asked what they would take away from the experience, another student, Carys, said she would remember: “The signs to look out for when patients are disclosing information.”

While student Simran shared her newfound admiration for the brave women/men who share their stories, after joining the group session with clients.

HBA and harmful practices are not well understood forms of abuse and can be overlooked by healthcare and other professionals. Working with the University of Liverpool students, we found that nearly all of the students had no previous understanding of HBA and harmful practices and had never heard of the term.

Medical settings are strictly confidential and survivors of the abuse are able to confide in professionals so it is vitally important that these professionals have an understanding of HBA and harmful practices and the confidence to talk about these topics with patients.

Merfat, Savera UK’s  Direct Intervention team coordinator said: “These students are the next frontline workers who will be responsible for safeguarding survivors and those at risk of HBA and harmful practices, so we welcomed them joining our team to learn more about identifying and helping us to end these practices.”

“On receiving feedback from them that ‘honour’-based abuse was something they weren’t fully aware of, these sessions are a small step in combating a larger issue and we wish them the best in their professional careers.”

Thank you to the University of Liverpool for their proactivity in recognising the importance of their students’ understanding of what ‘honour’-based abuse and harmful practices are, and a huge thank you to all the students who attended – we hope to build on this partnership opportunity.

Savera UK research named “top downloaded”

Savera UK’s groundbreaking research with the University of Liverpool has received enough downloads to rank within one of the top 10 percent of papers published in the Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling*, according to publisher Wiley.

‘Honour’-based abuse: A descriptive study of survivor, perpetrator, and abuse characteristics, was published in September 2022 and examines survivor, perpetrator, and abuse characteristics in anonymised cases of HBA and harmful practices such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), provided by Savera UK.

The paper found that emotional/psychological abuse and coercive control were the most common characteristics of ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices.

Savera UK CEO and founder, Afrah Qassim, said: “The fact that this paper has ranked within the top 10 percent of papers downloaded from this issue of the Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling supports the reason that we instigated this research in the first place – to create a baseline for HBA data.

“The lack of data around HBA and harmful practices has always been a challenge for organisations like Savera UK working with survivors and those at risk. 

“This paper provided a starting point to allow better understanding of the prevalence of different abuse characteristics and improved insight into HBA in the UK. It has also been the foundation for further research that we have undertaken in partnership with the University of Liverpool which we hope to see published in coming months.” 

To learn more about this paper and Savera UK’s upcoming research with the University of Liverpool, check out this blog.

*Among work published in an issue of Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling between 1st January 2022-31st December 2022, up to 12 months after publication

Savera UK Youth help create forced marriage comic 

Savera UK and Savera UK Youth have worked with academics, peer organisations and school children to develop a comic designed to help children aged 13 to 16 understand the risks and signs of forced marriage and learn how to protect themselves from abuse.

The educational comic created by Savera UK Advisory Board member and legal expert, Dr Hannah Baumeister, at Liverpool John Moores University and supported by research by Dr Helen McCabe at the University of Nottingham, explores the issue and also helps teenagers to act as allies to those at risk or already experiencing forced marriage.

Members of Savera UK Youth worked alongside the Savera UK team to review and give feedback on suggestions and ideas to ensure the effectiveness of the comic. Nottingham Girls’ Academy and Childwall Sports and Science Academy, Liverpool, also helped to develop the comic, with oversight and guidance from the universities and specialist charities working to end forced marriage, Savera UK and Karma Nirvana. Both schools have trialled the comic in PSHE lessons with very positive reactions from students. 

You can read about Savera UK Youth Advisory Board Member, Hannah Gloudon, who participated in the project at the “Drawing on Forced Marriage” blog here.

As well as the comic, the project team also developed a teaching pack for education providers to allow them to teach students about the issues surrounding forced marriage and how to spot the signs in order to prevent it. 

Forced marriage: Scale & signs

In 2022, around 300 people asked the UK Forced Marriage Unit for advice, with one in three of them being under the age of 18.

Telltale signs such as a lack of independence, poor school grades, decline in behaviour and disappearing from social media are all featured in the book, which stresses that although forced marriages are more common in some communities, they can happen to people of any ethnicity, culture, religion and nationality.

Dr Baumeister, of the LJMU School of Law, said of the project: “The law is there to help protect people by way of Forced Marriage Protection Orders and by criminalising forced marriage. However, not everyone knows this and even when they do, people might not want to report their experience. Therefore, support and advice delivered by expert organisations as well as education are key to prevent and end forced marriage.”

To learn more about forced marriage, visit the Savera UK Learning Hub.

If you think you or someone you know might be at risk of forced marriage you can call Savera UK on 0800 107 0726 (Monday – Friday 10 am – 4 pm) or contact us through our website.

Individual referral:

Professional referral: 

If the risk is immediate, please call 999


LP Nails supports Savera UK

Throughout Women’s History Month, Lucy Pastorelli Nails & Training, a woman-led business providing professional equipment and training to salons and nail technicians, supported Savera UK with a campaign raising awareness of HBA and harmful practices, and raising £460.50 for the charity.

Owner Lucy Pastorelli, learned about Savera UK’s work after seeing FGM survivor and Savera UK ambassador, Khatra Paterson, sharing her story and campaigning work in Olivia Attwood’s latest documentary series, The Price of Perfection.

Inspired by Khatra’s bravery in sharing her story, and recognising that many of their customers are beauty therapists who perform intimate treatments on women, Lucy and her team saw an opportunity to help them learn about and recognise FGM and other harmful practices.

Lucy said: “After hearing Khatra’s story, I was compelled to raise awareness of FGM within our industry. Throughout March we supplied over 900 custom drawn prints into salons not only in the UK but internationally, along with promoting the campaign on our social media platforms.

“The response from our customers was encouraging, and we hope this helped to create not only awareness, but also a safe space in salon environments for survivors. We are grateful for the opportunity to play a small part in what hopefully one day will be a world without harmful practices.”

Taking the words of a poem written collectively by Savera UK clients, who are all survivors of HBA and harmful practices, and commissioning artist Stephanie Jackson to incorporate them into a design celebrating women, the LP Nail team created an insert to be sent out with every order in March. The card shared information on HBA and harmful practices, signposting to Savera UK and a link to the charity’s learning hub, where more resources could be found.

The business also generously donated a percentage of all sales made in March to Savera UK, raising a fantastic £460.50.

Afrah Qassim, Savera UK CEO and founder, said: “The campaign created by the team at Lucy Pastorelli was so thoughtful and considered. For lots of women, beauty therapists might be a confidante and their salons a safe space to go, so helping them to be aware of HBA and harmful practices, and equipping them with signposting information is fantastic.

“To also incorporate our survivors’ voices into the campaign artwork made the partnership even more special. Thank you so much Lucy, Katie and all the LP Nails team, and of course to all their customers who made a purchase in March. Every single penny raised and every single person made aware of these issues helps us to keep working collectively towards our vision for a world without our HBA and harmful practices.”

To see more about the campaign click here.

Eid Party: Celebrating Culture and Diversity


Earlier this month we hosted an Eid party, bringing more than 20 of our clients and their families together for a lively and welcoming celebration to mark Eid al-Fitr, a religious holiday that commemorates the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting for Muslims.

The party included traditional foods such as Jollof rice, turkey stew and a range of delicious curries, which were prepared and brought by our clients, using money provided by Savera UK. This encouraged them to get involved in creating the celebration, to build their confidence and independence, and also allow them to share their cultural food with others.

There were lots of activities for the children to enjoy, including a t-shirt design station and arts and craft table and our clients were also able to relax with hand massages and nail painting provided by the Savera UK team and supporters.

Separating Culture from Abuse

Eid is one of many holidays celebrated by Savera UK and its clients, and an important part of the charity’s work to separate the beauty of our clients’ diverse cultures and faiths from the abuse that they have been subjected to.

As survivors of ‘honour’-based abuse (HBA) and harmful practices, our clients’ faith and culture have often been used to excuse or justify their abuse and holidays like Eid can be a difficult time for many.

This was highlighted by Savera UK Survivor Ambassador, Payzee Mahmod, when she posted on X recently. She said: “Eid can be so triggering. It’s a time meant for celebration and togetherness, but for those of us who aren’t part of our families and communities, it amplifies feelings of loneliness, grief, and isolation. It’s a reminder of what’s been lost, regardless of what you have found.”

At Savera UK we work to reduce those feelings of isolation and grief and break the connection between culture and abuse, highlighting that HBA and harmful practices are not part of any culture or religion, but a violation of human rights.

Reconnecting with Culture

By celebrating the diverse religious and cultural holidays of our clients, we provide a safe space for them to celebrate and reconnect with the beauty of their culture, share it with one another and come together as part of the Savera UK family, combatting isolation and loneliness.

Speaking of the Eid party, Reihana, Volunteer and Community Outreach Coordinator at Savera UK, said: “It was really great to be able to provide such a wonderful event for our clients and their children, and to see everyone get together. It is so important to create a safe space that is inclusive to all that helps reduce their isolation.”

A massive thank you to Reihana and the whole Savera UK team for organising such an amazing event. We look forward to more celebrations throughout the year.

Eid Mubarak to all from the Savera UK team, board and clients!

STATEMENT ON JULIA FOX: “FGM is not a costume”

Last week, actress Julia Fox sparked criticism from campaigners working to end female genital mutilation (FGM), after she posed for photographs in Los Angeles wearing a hiked-up white dress that exposed parts of a flesh-coloured bikini showing an image of a sewn-up vagina beneath the words “closed”, which looked similar to “type 3” FGM or “infibulation” – the medical terms used to describe FGM.

It is not clear what Fox’s intention was in wearing the outfit, but for Savera UK and many other FGM campaigners have branded it “horrific” and “triggering”. 

“FGM is not a costume”

Afrah Qassim, Savera UK CEO and Founder, said: “While the intention of this outfit may not have been to imitate or mock FGM and those who have been subjected to it, it is a thoughtless action that is offensive and harmful to those who are survivors.

“Julia Fox is a woman who appears to consider herself a feminist and has spoken in support of many issues affecting women, yet she failed to consider the impact of this outfit. She has effectively ‘dressed up’ in the pain of hundreds of thousands of women and girls. FGM is not a costume and unlike Julia, those affected are not able to just take the outfit off. They live with the physical and mental scars everyday of their lives. 

“The fact that Julia wore this outfit and that the photo was published on a news website that claims to be ‘woman-focused’ is a clear indicator of the lack of awareness and education around FGM, its forms and its impact on women around the world.

“We would urge Julia, her stylists, and the journalists and editorial staff who published this content without thought, to first apologise to survivors of FGM and secondly, to educate themselves on this horrific form of abuse and use their significant platforms to work to end rather than glamourise it. Ignorance is no excuse where there are so many campaigners and organisations working tirelessly to educate and campaign to end FGM for good.”

Khatra Paterson, Savera UK ambassador and FGM survivor, added: “I’m all for women having the freedom to express themselves, however Julia Fox’s flesh-coloured bikini that appears to depict a mutilated Type 3 vulva shows lack of sensitivity and insight for woman like myself that have gone through FGM.  

“It’s triggering and sadly FGM represents the control of a woman’s body and sexuality – the extreme opposite to what it appears Julia was intending to portray. Maybe if she could see the mental and physical struggles FGM survivors go through then she would of had a little more compassion rather than sensationalising it.”

Savera UK Survivor Ambassador, Payzee Mahmod, has also spoken out about Julia’s actions, as has survivor and activist Shamsa Araweelo, who has worked with Savera UK Youth on campaigns to raise awareness of FGM.

About FGM

“Type 3” FGM is often considered to be the most extreme form of this harmful practice, which narrows the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering “seal” formed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora, or labia majora, sometimes through stitching. It may also involve the partial or total removal of the clitoris.

FGM is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights. It reflects deep-rooted gender inequality, and constitutes an extreme form of gender discrimination. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. However, it can also be carried out on women, particularly in preparation for marriage or after giving birth. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture, cruelty, inhumane or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death. 

To learn more about FGM read our recent blog on FGM and Healthcare or download factsheets from the Savera UK Learning Hub 

Savera UK Backs #Push4Change

Savera UK has long advocated for a comprehensive statutory definition of ‘honour’-based abuse, seeing first-hand how the lack of clarity of the existing definition impedes progress in our mission to end HBA and harmful practices for good.

Today (Friday 8th March, 2024) we are joining peer organisations within our sector, survivors of HBA, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs and HBA Policing lead, Commander Ivan Balhatchet to #Push4Change and call on the government to introduce a statutory definition of HBA, which has already received formal recognition and support as a key recommendation from the Women and Equality Committee’s inquiry into Honour Based Abuse in July 2023, for which Savera UK provided evidence.

You can read the join letter here

Savera UK CEO and Founder, Afrah Qassim, said: “The impact of a statutory definition for HBA on our sector, survivors of HBA and those still at risk, would be significant. It would lead to better understanding, identification and reporting of HBA, facilitating more effective and appropriate responses.

“It will protect those of risk by giving professionals a robust framework to work with and it will empower survivors by recognising the severity of the issue and make it easier for them to seek help. It will also allow consistent reporting that feeds into improved data collection, which can be used to inform policy and service delivery.

“The statutory definition and framework that we call for cannot not be limited to simply female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage, and those most sensational and shocking cases of HBA.

“It must include reference to the full range of characteristics of HBA, like the core elements revealed in our baseline research that was published in 2022, as well as a full scope of harmful practices, from virginity testing and dowry abuse, to conversion ‘therapy’.

“It also needs to address the issue of the definition’s vulnerability to cultural stereotypes and the lack of understanding that it perpetuates, as this narrow lens excludes a sizeable minority of individuals at risk from atypical communities.

“Ongoing research by Savera UK and the University of Liverpool has shown that there are significant similarities between stereotypical and atypical HBA cases, which highlights the importance of defining HBA by its characteristics and not demographics, as pressures to uphold ‘honour’ can be placed on anyone regardless of demographic characteristics.

“A statutory definition of HBA is also only the start of our journey. It will allow for more informed decision-making and allocation of resources and funds, but where these are allocated is vital. Improving policy, definition and law-making is only effective if it is adequately communicated to those who need to be most aware – namely professionals and communities.

“More investment needs to be made into those organisations working on the frontline in communities to raise awareness, challenge stereotypes and break myths that allow HBA to be perpetuated. Using robust frameworks to educate and empower communities is how the fight against HBA will be won, and how we will end harmful practices for good.”

Child Marriage Ban: More Work Still to be Done

Today marks one year since the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 became law, banning child marriage. 

Reflecting on the 12 months since this momentous milestone, Savera UK CEO and founder, Afrah Qassim, said: “While this is an achievement to be celebrated, and a tool at our disposal to help us protect children from harm and abuse, it is also important to recognise that there is still much work to be done.

“We support IKWRO’s urgent calls for legislative changes in Scotland and Northern Ireland, because a marriage where parental consent is required is open to abuse and is not truly consensual. Until these laws are changed, children will remain at risk.

“We must also look at the wider issue of forced marriage. Forced marriage is inextricable from the issue of child marriage, but you don’t have to be a child to be forced into a marriage. 

“Cases of forced marriage affecting people of all ages are still under-reported, due to people being reluctant to approach authorities, survivors not realising that they are in a forced marriage, and a limited understanding of the issue amongst professionals and statutory and voluntary services.

“Greater training for professionals, mandatory education on the issue in schools, and more funding to support survivors is vital if we are to continue our work and achieve our collective aim of ending forced and child marriage.

“We will continue to work to end all harmful practices, to safeguard and advocate for those at risk, campaign for change and spread awareness among communities.”