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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 January 2008, 11:34 GMT
'I was manipulated into marriage'
By Catherine Marston
BBC News

Government forced marriage poster
A forced marriage unit has been set up by the government

As police, social workers and community leaders meet in Preston, Lancashire, to discuss the issue of forced marriages and so-called honour killings, one woman tells the story of her own traumatic experience.

In 1983, Gina's father arranged what she believed to be a holiday for her in Pakistan.

She was 16 and had no idea of what she calls "the conspiracy" in the back of her father's mind.

When she arrived there her uncle gave her a ring and some clothes to wear.

As a teenager with little experience of life in Pakistan, Gina believed this was a welcoming custom.

I was close to my father, I suppose I did it to appease him, please him
Gina

In fact, it was a sign her engagement to her cousin had been announced.

Under enormous pressure from her father, Gina eventually agreed to the marriage.

"They are very good at brainwashing you, conditioning you, manipulating your mind, I was told the best choice was to marry a cousin.

"I was close to my father, I suppose I did it to appease him, please him."

Gina returned home to discover her mother had known nothing of the planned marriage.

'No choice'

"My mum was modern, an outsider, she was not my dad's cousin, she was a progressive Muslim and it's hard to fight the old traditions".

Ring being placed on finger
Gina said she felt 'brainwashed' into her marriage

Gina's mother did not approve and refused to speak to her daughter ever again.

Many years later Gina's mother told her she had broken her heart by going through with the marriage.

Gina's older sister had also been forced into marriage.

She was betrothed to a cousin from the age of nine. Gina says her sister had been given no choice, and she can still recall the day her father was about to put her on a plane to Pakistan.

"My dad folded his arms in front of her and said 'Please my daughter, keep my honour'".

Gina's mother has never come to terms with this.

Gina found a job and began earning enough money to arrange for a visa for her husband to allow him to come to Britain.

But it soon became apparent that theirs was not a suitable match.

"In extended families it doesn't work," she explained, and the pair found themselves falling out.

We are taught to be submissive and stay silent. But staying silent can kill you
Gina

Gina lost a baby shortly after birth and suffered from depression.

It was then she decided she had to change her life.

"I walked out with the support of friends. I got a cab, put what I could in it, left almost everything behind and went.

"I didn't know where I was going, just into the unknown," she said.

Gina lived in a refuge for a while and has slowly rebuilt her life.

She admits she has lived in fear for many years, but is now a mother and a campaigner on the issue of forced marriages.

"We are taught to be submissive and stay silent. But staying silent can kill you. We are taught more about what our duties are, but less about our rights."

Gina says as a British Muslim she found it incredibly hard to accept her traditions in every aspect of her life.

"You live a lie, if you're born in the West, you are a Westerner, if you are born British you are British... And you just accept it's different for you."

SEE ALSO
Abuse and 'honour crime' probed
14 Jan 08 |  UK Politics
'Honour crime' meeting to be held
11 Jan 08 |  Lancashire
Hidden angst of 'trapped' teenager
11 Jan 08 |  Merseyside
Help for 'honour crime' victims
21 Nov 07 |  England

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