For far too long the authorities in this country have backed off from talking about forced marriage – partly due to ignorance of what is involved, but mainly because they are scared of being called racist, writes Saira Khan
As I watched those loving glances pass between Harry and Meghan last week, I couldn’t help but think of my own wedding.
It was everything it should have been – one of the happiest days of my life.
But as I looked into my groom’s eyes and said my vows, I knew I was doubly lucky – so many girls of my cultural background are not allowed to marry for love.
So I was gratified to see the four- and-a-half-year jail sentence passed this week in Birmingham on a woman for taking her 13-year-old daughter to Pakistan and forcing her to sign a marriage contract with a 29-year-old man who then raped his terrified young “bride” and made her pregnant.
For far too long the authorities in this country have backed off from talking about forced marriage – partly due to ignorance of what is involved, but mainly because they are scared of being called racist.
As a British child in a family of Pakistani origin, I grew up watching young girls – and sometimes boys – being taken to Pakistan, India or even to different parts of the UK and made to marry partners their parents had chosen for the benefit of family and community honour.
In many ways, it’s the story of Rochdale and Telford all over again – police, social workers and politicians turning a blind eye to flagrant law-breaking in the name of not offending religious and cultural sensitivities.
Just as they wrote off those girls who were groomed and abused by mainly Asian gangs, they also ignored the plight of thousands of Asian teenagers married off to strangers and made to abandon their education for early motherhood and forced domesticity.