The number of forced marriages known to authorities in the UK is “just the tip of the iceberg”, a charity has claimed.
Jasvinder Sanghera, founder of Karma Nirvana, said that forced marriage was “very much a British problem”. Both girls and boys are targeted yet “schools are not spotting the signs”, she claimed. Karma Nirvana is a specialist charity which supports victims of forced marriage and other so-called ‘honour crimes’. These are religiously motivated acts of violence usually perpetrated by the victim’s family as punishment for behaviour which is perceived to have brought shame upon a family or community.
Ms Sanghera’s comments followed the publication of a report by the Sunday Times. Children and young people are still made to marry against their will despite the practice’s criminalisation in 2014, the newspaper found. This report cited the case of a six year-old girl with learning difficulties who was married to an older man in Pakistan. Luckily for the girl, she was eventually brought back to the UK.
The Sunday Times report also found a nine year-old girl was set to marry a cousin of hers in Afghanistan who was twice her age. She was made the subject of a court order to protect that from happening. Another girl was forced to marry a 20 year-old man in Bangladesh when she was only 11 and stayed there with him until an English court order brought her back to Britain.
Others were not so fortunate. Girls as young as 14 years old became pregnant after they were forcibly married, according to the report.
Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime Karen Bradley called forced marriage an “abhorrent practice” which “will not be tolerated in the UK”. Despite this claim, ChildLine reported last year that they had experienced a 30 per cent increase in calls about the problem.
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