In Sri Lanka the legal marriage age is 18, but under a decades-old community law, much younger Muslim girls can get married. As calls grow for this law to be amended, BBC Sinhala’s Saroj Pathirana meets one young girl forced to marry against her will.
When Shafa* was 15, she was forced to get married. “While studying for exams, I fell in love with a boy,” Shafa said, tears running down her cheeks.
“My parents did not like it. They sent me to my uncle’s place. While I was studying there, a regular visitor told my aunt and uncle that he wanted to marry me.”
Shafa, who comes from a Muslim family and lives in a remote village in Sri Lanka, refused. She wanted to marry the boy she loved, after completing her secondary school education.
But despite her objections, her uncle and aunt arranged for her to marry their friend.
Whenever she objected to the marriage, she was beaten. Her uncle and aunt even threatened to kill themselves if she did not listen to them.
“I cut my arms as there was no other option,” said Shafa, pulling up her sleeves to show the scars. “I also took some pills from my uncle’s place.