Marriage forced on widow annulled in High Court
A Sikh woman has been freed from a marriage she was forced to accept by “threats and pressure” says a British judge.
Sitting in the High Court, Judge Judith Parker heard that the 29-year-old woman was kidnapped by her dead husband’s family when she went to India for his funeral. He had died just a couple of weeks earlier in a car crash.
The wealthy Punjabi family made her marry her father-in-law’s nephew, aged 27, and allegedly told her she would be killed if she refused. But she managed to flee to Britain.
Judge Parker said she was convinced of the truth of the account given by the petitioner, whose identity was withheld for her protection.
Annulling the marriage, the judge directed that copies of the ruling should be sent to the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police to secure the woman’s safety.
Judge Parker said she was quite satisfied that but for the threats and pressure the woman would not have entered into the marriage.
The woman told her that she was given sedative pills and injected with drugs. Closely guarded, she was not allowed to see her parents and was only permitted supervised telephone calls.
The judge’s ruling will be a talking point in South Asian communities in Britain and in the wider society.
The government and parliamentarians are campaigning to eliminate forced marriages affecting British nationals, which are said to run into the thousands every year.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has set up a Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) to prevent forced marriages overseas, in a joint initiative with the Home Office.
The unit says a forced marriage can be the result of emotional blackmail as well as physical threat. This, it says, is an abuse of human rights and cannot be justified on any religious or cultural basis.
The FMU adds: “It’s not the same as an arranged marriage where you have a choice as to whether to accept the arrangement or not. The tradition of arranged marriages has operated successfully within many communities and countries for a very long time.”
Anyone seeking information about forced marriage issues can find it online at: www.fco.gov.uk
Or, if you are worried that you might be forced into a marriage or are worried about someone else who may, the FMU says you should contact 020 7008 0151 (or 0044 20 7008 0151 if you are overseas).
“We’ll need to talk to you on the phone to work out a plan of action. Our caseworkers are fully trained to deal with the emotional, cultural and social issues surrounding forced marriage,” it says. Conversations would be treated with complete confidentiality.
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