Think of a wedding and you imagine a beaming couple surrounded by loved ones and celebrating their commitment to each other. But it’s not always so joyous. Arranged marriage is still common in the UK, particularly in Indian, Chinese, and Japanese cultures. And while some young Brits embrace arranged marriage and go on to have a happy and successful relationship, others feel forced to make a commitment that they don’t want.
In 2020, The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) gave advice or support in 759 cases related to a possible forced marriage, with 199 of those cases affecting those under the age of 18. In June, the Government pledged to raise the legal age limit to marry to 18, which will surely go a long way in protecting children forced into marriage. Here, one woman shares her own experience and explains why the law change is just the start of what needs to be done.
‘I was lucky to escape – many women don’t’
Farhana Raval was forced into an arranged marriage at 16. It was about a week into my trip when I began to suspect I’d been duped. Back in the summer of 1999, I’d just finished my GCSEs and I was excited about my future. But, not long after my last exam, my worried-looking mum told me that my grandmother in Bangladesh was unwell. I flew over with my mum and younger sister. We were met with jubilation from Mum’s extended family. Indeed, our welcome party was so joyous, I didn’t look closely at my grandmother. If I had, I’d have seen she looked perfectly healthy.
A TOUGH SEVEN YEARS
Eventually, one of my cousins told me. ‘There’s a boy’s family coming to see you.’ With a sinking feeling, I realized Mum’s true motive for bringing me – to force me into marriage. It marked the start of a tough seven years. I was lied to, beaten, and sexually abused. I was lucky to escape – many women don’t.
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