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.