Forced Marriages Still Not a Thing of the Past

Hands
Photo: BBC

When “Nasrin’s” parents told her they were going on a family vacation to Pakistan, she expected to be visiting relatives.

What she didn’t expect, was to be married off there—against her will and to a man she hardly knew.

Nasrin, who was only 19 at the time, was born and raised in the U.K. She was studying to be a pharmacist.

“It was basically a disaster,” she said of the forced marriage. “He was really violent and we didn’t communicate. His only way of communicating was with his fists or with that other thing men are violent with.”

Nasrin eventually escaped, but others aren’t as lucky.

The Forced Marriage Unit of the British government’s Foreign Office receives an astounding 5,000 calls each year. A third involve minors under the age of 18; children tricked (usually by their parents) into traveling abroad–only to be married off; children who are often abused sexually, emotionally, and physically.

Many of the victims are South Asian girls. Bradford is home to a large “British Asian” immigrant population. And last year alone 250 girls disappeared from that town’s school system. As Poonam Teneja reported for the BBC yesterday, it is suspected that a large number have been sent overseas, to be married off.

The head of the Foreign Office’s Forced Marriage Unit Vinay Talwar says the Office hears “stories of rapes, abductions, beatings, forced abortions and forced pregnancies.”

“(The victims) feel emotional pressure and coercion from parents, families, brothers, sisters. They are told they will bring shame on their families if they do not go along with it.”

For more information, including tips on how you can help, visit the Forced Marriage Unit of the British Foreign Office.

More:
Groups try to break bonds of forced marriage (USA Today)
Forced Marriage Awareness

May 9, 2007
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