Seera Myal is doing her bit to highlight this deeply hidden but surprisingly common issue . I personally know one victim myself….The UK government is currently injecting some energy in bringing to light these human rights abuses through their Forced Marriage Unit. The Home and Foreign and Commonwealth Office jointly launched a publicity campaign last week. They make clear that:

Forced marriage affects children, teenagers and adults from all races and religions, including Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs. And it is not solely an issue facing Asian communities. We deal with cases in the Middle East, Western Balkans and Africa.

They have a case study on their website involving Bangladeshis. Here it is:

M, aged 23, wanted to marry a Bangladeshi man whom she had met whilst he was visiting family in the UK. Her family objected and M was regularly beaten. Her family wanted her to marry a cousin in Bangladesh.

On 10 July 2002, M went to Bangladesh and married her boyfrien a few days later. After the marriage, she contacted her family who then managed to trace her in Bangladesh. They convinced her to go to their home village as it was traditional for a girl to return to her parents and then be returned to her husband in an honourable way. However, once she went with them, they locked her up in a house. She was told she would not be allowed to leave until she divorced her husband and married the person they had chosen for her.

M’s husband found her and took legal action in a magistrate’s court to try to obtain her release. He heard that M had been subjected to physical abuse, was unwell and not receiving medical treatment. M’s family threatened to kill her husband if she told the court that she was being held against her will. M therefore said that she did not want to go with her husband.

M’s husband did not give up. He contacted the Forced Marriage Unit. We liaised with the British High Commission in Dhaka, who contacted a local Non Government Organisation (NGO) that helps with many cases of forced marriage. The NGO and its lawyers submitted a Habeas Corpus petition to court, demanding M’s release. The lawyer requested that the court allow her husband to speak to her privately. The judge agreed and M had a chance to speak to her husband who persuaded her that her only chance was to speak up in court and to say that she wanted to go with him. She found the courage to do this and the judge had no option but to release her. M’s lawyer insisted on a police escort to Dhaka where M and her husband were taken to the High Commission. They have since returned to the UK together.