The Global Slavery Index estimates that there were 136,000 people living in modern slavery in the United Kingdom (UK) on any given day in 2016, reflecting a prevalence rate of 2.1 victims for every thousand people in the country.
According to a 2018 report by the Home Office, in 2018, the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1,196 cases. These figures include contact that has been made to the FMU through the public helpline or by email in relation to a new case. Since 2012, the FMU has provided support to between 1,200 and 1,400 cases per year.
At 12 Ali was engaged to a 24-year-old relative from her mother’s side of the family. At 16, she was sent to Pakistan for a shotgun marriage. The abuses Ali suffered during her months in Kashmir, at her mother-in-law’s hands, left her permanently blind in one eye and led to her missing the chance to pay her last respects to her dying father.
Throughout my childhood, my mother and father financially supported family members back in Pakistan.
There wasn’t even time to apply wedding henna. It was a case of, “Quick, quick, before the silly foreigner changes her mind.”
I feel sorry for her [Ali’s mother]. I know how great the pressure was to fall in line with what the family wanted. From the outset my father didn’t want to go ahead with the marriage, but my mother said, “We must do it. If we don’t go ahead there will be shame on the family.”
I find it remarkable that what happened to me 25 years ago is still happening to girls today. I say to her [Ali’s daughter], “You go out there and choose who you want to love, be he white, Chinese, whatever.” All I ask is that she’s happy.
Narrative provided by Karma Nirvana and featured in The Telegraph in an article ‘Forced marriage: the survivors' tales’ by Sally Howard. Photo by Kate Peters.