“I felt that I had no option. Oncethey had taken me out of the country there was nothing I could do. I had no contact with anyone but the family. My mother was caught between my feelings and the community’s expectations. They made me feel that I would dishonour my family if I didn’t marry him.”
Narina was 18 when her parents took her back home for a family holiday. She was kept in the family home and wasn’t allowed out on her own. Finally, she and her sister managed to run away and contacted the British Consulate, who found her a place to stay and helped her contact her friends in the UK. She eventually came home and with the help of a women’s refuge and her friends, has built a new life for herself and her sister.
“People don’t realise that men can also find themselves in this situation. I don’t know if I could have told anyone even if I’d had the chance to. It’s not exactly macho, is it, admitting that you were held hostage by your family and forced to marry someone you’d never even met?”
Raj was forced into a marriage. When he finally returned to the UK, it took him 3 years to get out of it. He may have been able to avoid the financial and emotional turmoil of divorce if he had known about the support and help at hand.
“I’ve always wanted to be independent, so I only agreed to go because they said my grandma was sick. It wasn’t true; when I got there they showed me new clothes and jewellery and said the wedding would be at the end of the week. They knew I’d be isolated when I got there because I’m deaf.”
Sola’s family had not learnt sign language and found it difficult to communicate with her. When she told them her plans for moving away to study at university, they decided it would be better for her if she got married instead but didn’t ask her. Luckily Sola had a mobile phone her family didn’t know about, and she used it to text friends in the UK, who alerted the FMU. The British Embassy helped her to return. She is now at university and has no contact with her family.
“My father found out that I had a boyfriend and that changed everything in our family. He literally kept me prisoner in the house, wouldn’t let me see my friends and then started planning my wedding to a man I had never met! He said that I had to follow our customs, and there would be no discussion. I didn’t have any way out.”
When Lena’s father found out about her boyfriend, he was so angry that he cut off her hair. He told her that having a boyfriend was against their culture. She would have to marry the man he chose and have a virginity test. Lena was so scared that she took an overdose. Fortunately she recovered in hospital.
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