“Hide a spoon inside your underwear.”
That’s the piece of advice coming from Katarina Idegard, the person in charge of addressing honour-based violence in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city.
Last year, a national hotline in Sweden received 139 calls in regards to forced marriage – many of them involving children.
It is of course impossible to know the number of women and girls being taken abroad and forced into marriage, but we do know it’s happening all over the world. And we know one in five girls worldwide will be married before their 18th birthday.
A number of cases have emerged in Sweden in the last four years.
In 2014, a 14-year-old girl was on the verge of being taken to Ethiopia and forced to marry an older cousin by her father, until she contacted a school counsellor on Facebook.
In 2016, a father attempted to trick his 16-year-old daughter into going to Afghanistan for a holiday, when in fact the plan was to make her a child bride.
Idegard’s message is simple: If a girl slips a spoon into her underwear, it will trigger the metal detectors at the airport.
“You will be taken aside and you can talk to staff in private,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Until this point, the person may not have had anyone else to confide in, and nowhere to turn for protection.
“It is a last chance to sound the alarm,” she said.
Airport staff have been alerted to this new tactic, and instructed on how to best respond.
The idea first came from British charity Karma Nirvana, which claims to have saved a number of girls from being taken overseas against their will, and is now being spread all over the world.
The same principle applies for girls being taken overseas to undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
A spoon in their underpants might very well be their last resort.