A judge says he cannot nullify the marriage of a teenage mother who says she was forced at ‘gunpoint’ into becoming a bride when she was just 14.
Instead the girl, now 17 and a mother of a one-year-old, must defy her family if she wants the union formally annulled, said Mr Justice Holman at the High Court.
The teenager, who was born in Britain and whose family has lived here for 40 years, says she was shipped out to Pakistan to contract a forced marriage with a 24-year-old man two years ago.
She told how she was subjected to ‘harrowing’ violence and menaced with a gun to go through with the ceremony – and was two weeks later forced to have sex with her ‘husband’, giving birth to his baby who is now aged just over one.
After she came forward with her account, her local authority took both her and her baby into care and asked Mr Justice Holman to formally declare that her marriage – which effectively made her a rape victim – could never have been recognised under English law.
However, in a unique decision, the judge ruled that – although the girl was under extreme duress and aged under 16 at the time – he was barred by statute from granting a declaration that her marriage was ‘at its inception, void’.
Expressing sympathy for the girl and the ‘real stigma’ she faced, the judge said his hands were tied and he simply had no power to make a formal ruling that ‘there never was a marriage’ capable of recognition in England and Wales.