Page last updated at 18:08 GMT, Monday, 29 June 2009 19:08 UK

Male victims of forced marriages

By Stuart Whincup
BBC Look North

A forced marriages investigation office will open in the North East in the autumn

Blackmailed and beaten, then forced to marry someone they do not love, or even know.

It is an ordeal which is faced by thousands of women across the world every day.

But now an investigation by BBC Look North has found that dozens of men in the north-east of England are facing the same fate.

The men have all contacted the Derby-based charity Karma Nirvana, which helps victims of forced marriage and "honour"-based violence.

Asif, from Newcastle, was eight when he was taken to Pakistan for what he thought was a family holiday.

There he was engaged to his cousin, who was just six.

Asif, man forced into a marriage
Asif was forced to marry his cousin

Asif said: "I didn't even know who she was, I'd never met her. But I was frightened of my family. My mother was ill at the time and she blackmailed me.''

The increase in cases in the North East means Karma Nirvana is now planning to open a centre in the region, aimed at providing help for both men and women.

Tony Hutchinson, who will run the centre, said: "The psychological pressure put on these young people is unimaginable.

"They are told they will bring shame on their family and are cut off from the whole community.''

Campaigners say the issue of forced marriage is treated as a cultural one. Often they say teachers and community leaders are reluctant to raise concerns as they fear being called racist.

After several months of an unhappy marriage, Asif realised he could no longer live with a woman he did not love.

He said: ''I just packed my bags and decided to live on my own. I wanted to look for someone I really loved, who would be my partner for the rest of my life.''

The new centre for the victims of domestic violence will be opened in the North East at the start of September.



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SEE ALSO
Hidden world of forced marriage
09 Feb 09 |  England
Honour violence helpline set up
13 Nov 07 |  Tees

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