Big Story 10

Britain makes second forced marriage conviction in a week

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A couple who duped their daughter into traveling to Bangladesh to marry her cousin and threatened to “chop her up” when she refused were found guilty of forced marriage on Tuesday, the second conviction in Britain within a week.

Campaigners said they hoped the convictions, among the first under a law introduced in 2014, would send a “strong message” to deter families from forcing their children to marry and encourage more victims to seek help.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the British teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, thought she was going to Bangladesh in 2016 with her family for a holiday.

She ended up in a remote village where she was told she would be married. When she refused, her father threatened to slit her throat and “chop her up” in 18 seconds - one for every year of her life - the CPS said.

With the help of her younger sisters, the woman was able to contact her boyfriend in Britain, who then alerted police.

She was rescued within days and the marriage did not go ahead.

“This victim was cruelly and deliberately misled by her parents, who were determined to take her to Bangladesh for a marriage she did not want,” said Michael Quinn, a senior prosecutor.

Britain banned forced marriage in 2014. The maximum penalty is seven years.

The government’s Forced Marriage Unit received reports of nearly 2,000 possible cases last year, many involving girls from South Asian backgrounds. But campaigners say the figure is just the tip of the iceberg.

Last week, a mother who tricked her 13-year-old daughter into traveling to Pakistan to marry an older man was jailed for four and a half years, becoming the first person in England to be convicted of forced marriage.

“It is positive to see a second forced marriage conviction so soon after the first successful conviction of this type in the UK,” said Diana Nammi, director of the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organization (IKWRO), which supports victims of forced marriage.

IKWRO said there were more than 3,500 reports of forced marriages made to police between 2014 and 2016.

Karma Nirvana, another support group, said it hoped there would be more convictions given that many victims of forced marriage were children.

“What I’m hoping is that it will give confidence to the prosecution and to the police to pursue these cases so we can continue this strong message,” said Natasha Rattu, a lawyer at Karma Nirvana.

Rattu said she hopes the convictions will also encourage victims to speak out.

“It sends a message out to victims of this abuse that if you go to seek help, help will be available,” she said.

The couple will be sentenced on June 18.