Aneeta Prem: The woman behind the ‘slave’ expose

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OBV speaks exclusively to Aneeta Prem, a long time friend of OBV who supported the OBV Magistrates Shadowing Scheme and has recently gained prominence for her charity’s role in releasing three women from 30 years of alleged slavery in south London.

Aneeta Prem founded the Freedom Charity four years ago in an effort to combat forced marriages and honour based violence in the UK. Prem, who has an interest in fighting human rights abuses, felt an organization was needed to end the injustice, or at least ease the victims’ sufferings.

The charity seeks to provide resources for young people to support one another and spread knowledge on family relationships. To help share information and support victims, the Freedom Charity runs school programmes and is active on social media websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and to expand its audience.

The organisation also created a free App for smart phones to provide basic information on forced marriages for all ages. It includes guidance for friends of victims and advice for Members of Parliament in handling inquiries. The help button on the App connects people directly to the helpline and the GPS found in smart phones can help police track the victim if necessary.

The charity’s 24 hour, seven days a week Helpline is operated by trained professionals to help victims of forced marriage who are seeking assistance. The continuous availability of help increases people’s trust in the charity and Prem believes improves their likelihood to contact them.

Prem also published a fictional book, But It’s Not Fair, to provide insight about forced marriages and different cultures’ experiences. To date, the Freedom Charity has donated thousands of copies of the book to schools. Prem maintained that it is crucial to distribute them in schools in order to speak to students at an early age about the problems of forced marriage.

She said:

Young people need to realize they have the power to stop any kind of abuse.”

The book allows the topic to be accessible to a broader audience. With an increase in awareness, Prem hopes more people will seek help through the organisation.

The charity has been in the spotlight recently because of its involvement in rescuing three women who were held captive in a home for more than three decades. One of the victims contacted the organisation after seeing Prem in a news segment about forced marriages.

Prem explained that the intense media coverage has led to an increase in the number of phone calls to the direct line. She said fundraising support is needed in order to expand their resources to meet new demands.

To work towards achieving their mission, Prem explained members of her organisation partner with the public sector frequently. These include working with the police forces and the National Council of Women to expand their ability to prevent future occurrences and support the abuse victims.

Recently, they have united with the Forced Marriage Unit to make forced marriage a criminal offense. With enough support from the government, the law will hopefully be implemented in the spring of next year, Prem says.

She insisted on the urgency in addressing the issue, saying “doing nothing isn’t an option”.

We treat every call as a last chance call. People trust us to make a difference in their lives, so we have a huge responsibility.”

To learn more about the Freedom Charity and how you can help their efforts, please visit http://freedomcharity.org.uk/

Nilay Tuncok

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