LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A mother who tricked her teenage daughter into traveling to Pakistan to marry an older man was jailed for four and a half years on Wednesday after becoming the first person in England to be convicted of forced marriage.
Campaigners said Tuesday’s landmark conviction sent a strong message to families planning to coerce their daughters into marriage, and would empower girls to speak out.
The jury at Birmingham Crown Court in central England heard the girl appeared to have been betrothed to a man 16 years her senior on a visit to Pakistan when she was 13.
The man had sex with her and the girl underwent an abortion on her return to Britain, prosecutors said.
The mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, took her daughter back to Pakistan in 2016 under the guise of a holiday, but after they arrived the girl was told she would be married.
When she protested, her mother assaulted her and threatened to burn her passport, the court heard.
On the day of the wedding - just after her 18th birthday - an Islamic ceremony was performed and the girl was made to sign a certificate proving the marriage had occurred.
When a High Court judge in Britain ordered the girl’s return from Pakistan, her mother threatened her with black magic if she told anyone what had happened, prosecutors said.
Britain banned forced marriage in 2014. The maximum penalty is seven years.
The woman, in her 40s, received two concurrent three-and-a- half year jail sentences for duping her daughter into leaving Britain to get married and for forcing her into marriage.
She was jailed for a further year for committing perjury at the High Court.
Karma Nirvana, a charity supporting forced marriage victims, hailed the verdict as “very significant”.
“It sets a massive precedent,” said Natasha Rattu, a lawyer at Karma Nirvana. “If you are not prosecuting anybody under the law it will not have any deterrent effect.”
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.
Detective Superintendent Sally Holmes of West Midlands Police praised the victim’s “extraordinary” bravery.
“Anyone who is considering marrying a person against their will must understand that we will thoroughly investigate any such offences, wherever they take place in the world,” she said.
Editing by Claire Cozens, Belinda Goldsmith and Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.