At 12 years old, Shaheen Hashmat left her family home in Scotland to escape the threat of forced marriage to a stranger in Pakistan. At 13, she attempted suicide.
Hashmat, who now campaigns against forced marriage and “honour based” violence, says Britain urgently needs better mental health services for girls and women escaping these situations.
“There needs to be far more training about the increased risk of suicide and the impact of family estrangement,” said Hashmat, who won the True Honour 2016 award on Thursday for her bravery in standing up to honour abuse.
Experts say thousands of girls and women in Britain are subjected to every year as a way of controlling behaviour perceived as bringing shame on their family. Hashmat, now 33, grew up in a strict Pakistani family in which every aspect of her life was policed from the TV she watched to the people she spoke to and even the way she sat.
She was beaten and saw others in her family beaten too. Her two older sisters were forced into marriage as teenagers after being sent “on holiday” to Pakistan. As she grew up she started to challenge what was happening around her. “If I had stayed the physical abuse would have increased because I was seen as being out of control and becoming too westernised,” she told Thomson Reuters Foundation.
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