Page last updated at 14:11 GMT, Thursday, 2 July 2009 15:11 UK

'Punished for shaming my family'

The government's Forced Marriage Unit says it has received 770 calls for help so far this year - up 16% on 2008. One woman who was a victim of this crime has told her story to Adam Pasternicki, politics reporter for the BBC Asian Network.

She is a British citizen but was brought up in South Asia, where her story starts off.

Depressed woman (stock pic)
Victims of forced marriage are being encouraged to seek help

My story began at childhood. In my culture, in my family, girls were not accepted. We weren't allowed to mix with the men in the family.


I was open-minded and very different from the family.

I was very good academically as well as at swimming. I was in my national swimming team. I was given a scholarship to the United States and my father refused.

He didn't want me to be swimming half-naked in front of crowds as a teenager. It was something I had been looking forward to.

I became rebellious. I fell in love with somebody who was a Christian and we got married without the family's consent.

Ten days after the marriage, my father had us arrested on false charges. We were taken to the local police station, by men I believe were impersonating police officers. I was then taken across the country under sedation. I was locked up in a house in unfamiliar surroundings.

They acquired my passport and flew me off to India. When we got there, I was locked up and monitored 24 hours a day.

Two years later, I was forced to marry a man I met on my wedding day. My family thought this was the punishment for shaming them.

Rape

I came to the United Kingdom and sponsored him. He was an alcoholic and physically abusive. I had two children with him. My family wanted me to show I was respectable.

One night he really physically beat me up and raped me. I conceived as a result of that. I decided to go for a termination, as I couldn't have handled it.

My breakthrough came when he threatened to kill me
Victim of forced marriage

That experience gave me the strength to start working. A few staff members saw me coming into work tearful. One of the staff asked me what was happening. I told her I was not happy in my circumstances. She told me to get help.

The first thing I did was go to my doctor and she put me in contact with domestic violence services in the area.

A few days later, it just so happened that my husband wanted to take the children to India. That was the trigger that finally made me walk out of the marriage. We started divorce proceedings.

For the first year of my separation things were going well until I had a mental breakdown.

I felt so isolated. I ended up in a mental unit, and had to consent to my husband having custody of the children, which was supposed to be temporary.

Social services thought I was being a selfish mother and wanted to throw my children away.

It took me a lot of strength to fight. My breakthrough came when he threatened to kill me. I made a statement to police and they thought a lot of criminal activity had taken place.

After everything, I got custody of my children in April last year.




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SEE ALSO
Forced marriage law helps woman
10 Feb 09 |  Lancashire

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