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Girls & Women

English Mum Found Guilty of Forcing Teen Daughter to Marry 33-Year-Old Man

A mother in England has been sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail after a jury at Birmingham Crown Court found her guilty of two counts of forced marriage and one count of pejury, according to the BBC.

The 45-year-old woman tricked her 17-year-old daughter into travelling to Pakistan to marry a 33-year-old man. She reportedly told her it was a family holiday to celebrate her 18th birthday, and bribed her with a mobile phone.

Take Action: Tell World Leaders to Stop Child Marriage for Good

When the young girl arrived in Pakistan in September 2016, then aged 18, she was forced to sign marriage papers. When she protested that she wanted to finish her education, the court was told, the mother assaulted her and threatened to burn her passport. The mother then reportedly abandoned her daughter in Pakistan.

Both the mother and daughter cannot be named for legal reasons.

The court heard that the lead-up to the marriage had begun when the daughter was just 13, when her mother manipulated her into signing a marriage contract with the same man in 2012.

“[She] was asked to sign a document which she thinks was some form of marriage agreement,” prosecutor Deborah Gould told the court. “That night when she wanted to sleep by her cousin, the cousin told her she could not do this as she had to sleep by her husband.”

The jury was told that her future husband then raped and impregnated her, and she received an abortion on her return to the UK. The case was reportedly flagged to social services by her GP at the time, but the mother evaded punishment after telling Birmingham’s children services that they were just two teenagers who had “sneakily had sex.”

The daughter was described in court as a “highly vulnerable teenager” with "special educational needs," who craved the love of her divorced parents. After her first pregnancy termination, she ran away from home and was placed in emergency foster care. It was there that she was raped once more by a different man, and underwent a second abortion.

“You had cruelly deceived her,” said judge Patrick Thomas QC in a court address to the defendant. “She was frightened, alone, held against her will, being forced into a marriage she dreaded. You must have known that was her state of mind. Yet for your own purposes, you drove the marriage through.

“Her courage and respect for the truth throughout these proceedings have been admirable, and are a marked contrast to your own cowardice and deceit, continuing right through this trial and no doubt hereafter,” Thomas added.

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It’s the first time a conviction for forced marriage has been secured in England. In 2015, a 34-year-old man from Cardiff, Wales, was jailed at Merthyr Crown Court after he pleaded guilty to forcing a 25-year-old woman to marry him. Although he was jailed for 16 years, just four were for forced marriage; the remainder were for charges of rape, bigamy, and voyeurism, to which he pleaded guilty.

Last year alone, there were 1,196 cases of possible forced marriage in the UK reported to the government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU). A report released by the Home Office and Foreign Office earlier this month revealed that nearly a third involved victims under the age of 18, with the youngest being just two years old.

Read More: FGM Happens in the UK, But Is Obscured by a Very British Silence

The NSPCC charity told the Guardian it had held 205 counselling sessions for children concerned about the risk of forced marriage in 2016-17, up from 183 the previous year. Meanwhile, the Childline forced marriage web page received 6,099 visits in the same period.

The BBC reports that Karma Nirvana, a charity that supports victims of forced marriage, receives approximately 300 calls a month.

The maximum jail term for forced marriage in the UK is seven years.

Global Citizen campaigns in support of gender equality and women’s rights. You can take action here to call on lawmakers to put an end to child marriage and protect women and girls everywhere.

Concerned adults can call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000; young people can call Childline on 0800 1111.

The FMU’s helpline is also available from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, and can be reached on 020 7008 0151, or overseas on +44 (0)20 7008 0151. An out-of-hours service is provided by the FCO’s Global Response Centre, based in the UK, which can be reached on 020 7008 1500. The helpline can also be contacted on fmu@fco.gov.uk