Archive for the ‘Forced Marriage’ Category

‘Dad said he would kill me if he found me’

Sanaz (not her real name) was 13 years old when she left home to escape a forced marriage. Her story is not unusual for many young girls in London.

Forced marriage became an offence in 2014 and since then there have been 491 incidents of it reported to the police in the capital.

But the Metropolitan Police has yet to secure a conviction.

Sanaz’s story, and the experiences others affected by forced marriage, is now being used in schools to raise awareness among young people about the issue.


I had the honour yesterday of listening to Yasmin Khan. Yasmin is the founder and chief officer of the Middlesbrough based Halo Project Charitywhich supports victims of honour-based violence, forced marriages and female genital mutilation (FGM).

As I listened to Yasmin, I was struck by the silence in the room. Silence, as we absorbed what we were hearing. Silence, as we heard Yasmin’s harrowing account of the experiences of some of the women who have been supported by the Project. And, silence because the criminal activity that the Project is helping to uncover and stop is so utterly hard to hear.

I tried to imagine how it must feel to live in daily fear for your life, at the hands of abject cruelty, within a community of people that are supposed to love, care for and nurture you. I couldn’t. And, since yesterday afternoon, I’ve thought so much about the people whose stories we heard. Women who have experienced the kind of physical and psychological pain that no person should ever have to encounter. Women who have been murdered because they have brought so-called ‘shame’ or ‘dishonour’ to the family. Women whose genitals have been mutilated by family members and the silence that surrounds this utterly despicable practice. Women who kill themselves because they can no longer cope with the abuse that they experience daily.

On International Women’s Day 2019, let’s talk about breaking the silence that surrounds these crimes. “Break the Silence” is the Project’s strapline, chosen for its aptness and relevance. The noise that’s being created by its existence is loud, necessary and crucial, generating conversations that need to happen in many different settings.

One of the ways that the conversation around FGM will be encouraged is during compulsory relationship and sex education in schools. By 2020, the physical and emotional damage caused by FGM will be discussed with students in secondary school education. Students will be taught that this practice is a form of child abuse and a criminal activity from which women and girls can suffer long-term damage to their phyiscal and mental health.

I have a long held view based on things that have happened in my life: the hardest conversations are the most important to have, yet are often the most difficult to hear. That’s why the room was silent yesterday when Yasmin spoke and what I heard made me think about how different my life is, compared to the lives of the women that the Halo Project supports and protects. It made me realise how easy it is to take my freedom for granted. It made me realise how fortunate I am. And it made me realise the importance of women using their voices to speak out and speak up for women whose voices are silenced.

Yasmin, your voice has spoken. You’ve taken action and brought about great change. Your Halo Project is saving, transforming and making safe the lives of so many. You should be very proud indeed. You’re an incredible woman of Teesside whose achievements I want to celebrate.

Jeremy Hunt to investigate ‘morally repugnant’ rescue fees for forced marriage victims

The Foreign Office has been branded “morally repugnant” for charging forced marriage victims for their own rescue as Jeremy Hunt pledged to investigate the policy.

The foreign secretary said Britain should always act with “compassion and humanity” after MPs criticised the practice of recouping the cost of helping citizens return home.

Victims must pay for their plane ticket, food and shelter themselves, or – if they are over 18 – they can take out emergency loans from the government, according to an investigation by The Times.

“We must always behave with compassion and humanity and look at these situations on an individual basis,” he said.

“The important thing to say here is we are very good at getting these girls and women home after the terrible ordeal of a forced marriage.

“We’re known for the fact we have this huge diplomatic network around the world that is very, very good at helping Brits in distress and situations like this.”

According to the Times, four young British women were sent by their families to a “correctional school” in Somalia in 2018, where they were imprisoned and physically abused.

They were charged £740 each and reportedly left destitute by the loans – and The Times was told that two of them were now living in refuges since returning to the UK, while two had become drug addicts.

Women who have taken out loans have had their passports cancelled, and were told they cannot get a new one until the debt is repaid.

A 10% surcharge is also added if the emergency loan is not repaid within six months.

Mr Hunt, who is in Singapore at the start of a three-day visit to Asia, said he wanted “to get to the bottom” of the issue.

Forced marriage victims asked to pay rescue costs

British victims of forced marriages overseas are being asked by the Foreign Office to pay costs associated with their own rescue, it has been revealed.

An investigation by the Times found those unable to cover flights, food and shelter were made to take out a loan.

The Foreign Office said government rules meant all UK adults in difficulty aboard had to fund their repatriation.

But the heads of the Commons’ foreign and home affairs committees have criticised the practice for the women.

According to the report in the Times, British victims of forced marriage who ask for help abroad are informed about the costs.

UK officials will help them access their own funds, and contact friends, family or organisations that can assist them.

But if they cannot find the money, they are asked to sign emergency loan agreements before returning home.

The Times says a freedom of information request showed the Foreign Office helped 27 victims of forced marriage return to the UK in 2017 and 55 in 2016.

It reports the Foreign Office loaned £7,765 to at least eight victims in the past two years.

About £3,000 has been repaid, but debts of more than £4,500 are outstanding.

‘Rejected by my family, raped – but proud to be gay’

Seyeda has been rejected by her family, abused and raped because she is gay – but is determined to be out and proud.

The 42-year-old from Pakistan believes she would have been killed if she had not moved to the UK.

“I can’t even imagine (what would have happened). I don’t think I would be alive there.

“But there is no looking back. If people are harassing me, I need to make myself more strong.”

Seyeda – whose parents died before they discovered her sexuality – was under pressure from an early age to marry a cousin.

“I didn’t want to because I knew of my orientation,” she told BBC Radio 5 Live Investigates.

A new report from LGBT domestic abuse charity Galop reveals around one in four of the cases seen by their advocacy service has been abused by family members – while one in ten is at risk of ‘honour-based’ violence or forced marriage.

‘Bad time’

University provided no escape for Seyeda. After a supervisor discovered her sexuality, she says she was forced off her PhD programme, and left without accommodation.

“I didn’t have anywhere to stay,” she explained. “If you are a woman on your own in Pakistan, you can’t live anywhere.

“I have uncles and aunts in Pakistan, and I was begging to stay (with them). But they weren’t ready to (let me) – and I was not ready to get married in the way they wanted me to.

“Once the extended family came to know about my sexuality, I had a bad time.”


COMMUNITIES should help the police by reporting suspicions related to forced marriage, a
campaigner has urged, as she revealed she felt UK politicians were failing victims.

Jasvinder Sanghera, the founder of Karma Nirvana which supports victim of honour-based
abuse, also warned more children would suffer because of the government’s failures.

Sanghera, who was disowned by her family after she refused to participate in a forced marriage, told Eastern Eye on Tuesday (9) that communities could help agencies, especially the police, by reporting any suspicions they had about forced marriages.

“It is very difficult to police, safeguard and investigate cases without the support of those aware of victims,” she said. “I understand it takes immense courage to report abuses as a third party, but you can anonymously.”

Last week, the home secretary Sajid Javid announced new measures to combat forced marriage.

They include the refusal of spousal entry visas to the UK where there are signs that a marriage has been forced and helping public service professionals identify and support victims. Javid made the announcement after months of criticism against the Home Office, which has been accused of accepting visa applications from men who had forcibly married teenagers abroad.

In response to this, Prem praised the government’s latest actions to tackle the problem.

She is hopeful the latest proposals will make a difference to victims.

“These are small steps, but it is a positive move forward,” she said.

Noreen Riaz, a project coordinator from forced marriage charity Halo Project, told Eastern Eye she shared similar sentiments as Prem. She believes change is happening, but it is a slow process.

“The government has made the necessary legislative changes to tackle forced marriages in the UK,” Riaz said.

“However, I agree more needs to be done to ensure change in practice and in the culture that it is prevalent in.

“Victims of forced marriage are at greater risk of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. We need to ensure professionals and agencies are aware of these risks and have a better understanding and training in regard to the barriers faced by victims of forced marriages,”
Riaz said.

UK Somali teenagers taken ‘on holiday’ and forced into marriage

British Somali teenagers are being taken back to their parents’ homeland under the pretence of a holiday and then kept in detention centres before being forced into marriages.

Under the practice of dhaqan celis, loosely translated as “the rehabilitation community”, Somali children and teenagers are routinely taken to the country, where they are often sent to “rehabilitation” centres.

The centres promote themselves as “re-education” schools to align young people with Somali cultural values and their Somali roots. The Home Office, however, says they tend not to deliver an academic curriculum and are in fact detention centres where young people are routinely subjected to physical, sexual and mental abuse. In some cases, those held against their will are told the only way out is to get married.

David Myers, joint head of the Home Office’s forced marriage unit (FMU) in the UK, said: “What we are seeing in these communities is that young people who have antisocial behaviour issues, are getting involved in gangs and drugs, and are being sent back to Somalia by their parents for re-education and rehabilitation.

Forced marriage: Leeds parents jailed over Bangladesh wedding

A husband and wife have been jailed for tricking their daughter into travelling to Bangladesh in order to force her into marriage.

The couple were described as “monsters” by their daughter who they had threatened to kill if she did not go ahead with the arrangement.

The father was jailed for four-and-a-half years and the mother for three-and-a-half years at Leeds Crown Court.

None of those involved in the case can be named.

More stories from Yorkshire

The then 18-year-old daughter had to be rescued from a remote village in an operation by the British High Commission involving armed police, the judge heard,

The woman, who is from Leeds and is now aged 20, described in a victim impact statement how she had assumed a new identity and lived in fear of her family.

She said: “I know I will always have to remain cautious but, knowing those monsters are going to be in prison, I feel the uttermost freedom in my heart.

“I want other girls to know that forcing someone to marry is wrong.”

‘Chop her up’

The woman was taken to Bangladesh with other family members for what they had been told was a holiday.

But the parents had made extensive plans for her wedding to a first cousin.

She reacted against the plan and her father hit her, with her mother’s encouragement, the court heard.

Her father said he would “chop her up in 18 seconds” if she continued to reject the proposed marriage, the judge was told.

The woman managed to alert the police through her boyfriend in the UK and the court was played some of the messages she left on his phone.

Judge Simon Phillips QC said of the recordings: “Her terror and distress is palpable.”

Conflict and breakdown in law and order drive scourge of modern slavery

Anew report has revealed the number of people around the world subject to trafficking and exploitation as modern-day slaves.

Modern slavery, described by UK prime minister Theresa May as “cruel exploitation”, encompasses both forced labour and forced marriage as well as human trafficking both within and between countries, debt bondage and the sale and exploitation of children.

The Global Slavery Index, a biennial survey of the international trade of people and goods that are reliant on the slave trade, reveals that 40 million people around the world are being held as modern-day slaves. The majority are in forced labour – 24.9 million – with 15.4 million held in forced marriage. And 70 per cent of all those living as slaves are women and girls.

The report says that the figures are likely to be an underestimate because of the lack of data from regions such as the Arab States and on practices such as the kidnap of children by armed groups and the number of people held for organ trafficking.

I was a victim of forced marriage


I always knew I would be forced to marry somebody I barely knew and didn’t love. In my family, being a woman was all about being somebody else’s property – first you belong to your parents, then your husband. I was an object, expected to wait on men and produce children.

It is an experience shared by the 3,500 people who have reported forced marriage to the police within the past three years – and the thousands more suffering in silence.

There is a difference between forced and arranged marriages. The latter is a marriage set up by family members of two people over the age of 18, who can both choose whether or not to participate. This becomes a forced marriage if either partner is unwilling or unable to give permission.

In the UK, forced marriage is illegal and has been since 2014. This includes if people are taking someone abroad or bringing them into this country for this reason. Yet, in England, it’s believed that only one in 30 suspected forced marriages leads to a prosecution, and it’s clear many cases are still flying under the radar.

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