Karma Nirvana – Jasvinder Sanghera

I picked up the Church Times over the weekend and discovered an interesting interview. Jasvinder Sanghera founded Karma Nirvana in 1993 as a helpline for people in danger of honour abuse and honour kilings.

The article on the rear of the Church Times is an interview with Jasvinder.

She escaped a forced marriage but her sister Robin was unable to do so and committed suicide by setting herself on fire.

Jasvinder Sanghera, CBE was born in September 1965 in Derby and her parents originate from India, the Punjab.  Jasvinder’s family were Sikhs and she was one of seven sisters and one brother. She fled home when in her teens as her parents were forcing her to marry a stranger. She was disowned by her family, rejected by her parents and treated by them as an outcast. They regard her as having deeply shamed them. She has no contact with her past family today.

Jasvinder tells her story in her true story in Shame, published by Hodder and Stoughton. She tells more stories of British victims in her second book, Daughters of Shame. Both books have been translated into various languages including Japanese, Polish, Spanish.

She says that Shame, is her personal story: “I wished for it to be an honest account, because I felt the responsibility of telling a story that I knew was one of many. It took longer to write, as it was quite painful, but the whole experience has been cathartic, and it has helped shape UK policy and practice today.”

Karma Nirvana is now a national and international charity that has been instrumental in developing several refuge centres across the United Kingdom which serve as safe-housing for South Asian men and women fleeing forced marriages. Jasvinder says: “Karma Nirvana serves all those affected by honour abuse. The survivor stories are the most important ones to hear. No one can argue with the testimony of real-life experience. I feel that, in telling my story, it has given others the courage to speak out, and our visibility enables others to believe that there is life when you take a stand.”

Jasvinder had been awarded several awards in recognition for her contribution in the field of forced marriages and honour based violence including:

  • The Woman of the Year Award 2007
  • Pride of Britain Award 2009
  • Global Punjabi Society Award 2012
  • Cosmopolitan Wonder Woman Award 2010
  • Inspirational Woman of the Year Award 2008
  • Asian Woman Achievement Award 2007
  • Ambassador for Peace Award 2008

Jasvinder has been listed as one of the Guardian’s 100 most Inspirational Women in the World. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of University of Derby for her contribution to knowledge in the field of forced marriages and honour based violence.[3] This has led to providing evidence to several Government Select Committees and acting as an Expert Witness to Courts across the UK and internationally.

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