A girl of 15 was tricked into a “telephone marriage” ceremony to a Sheffield man with a mental age of five in a ceremony recognised by sharia (Islamic law).
When the girl arrived from Pakistan expecting to meet the handsome man she had been shown in a photograph, she found that he was 40 years old, unemployed and disabled.
To make matters worse, her mother-in-law decided to exploit her attractive looks by forcing her into prostitution.
The family invited men to the family home to rape her before she managed to escape to the police by bolting through the front door. She was taken into care and now lives in a refuge.
The case is highlighted in a report by the Centre for Social Cohesion, which has found that policemen, councillors and taxi drivers are turning a blind eye or even conniving in enforcing the Asian community’s strict “moral code” on young women.
The girl’s marriage last April was not recognised by the Home Office but was approved by the Islamic Sharia Council in Britain. She is typical of the runaway brides at risk of an “honour killing“. According to official figures, 10 to 12 women are murdered in Britain in honour killings each year, but the government has been warned by MPs that this is a serious underestimate. Police often record the deaths as cases of domestic violence, while other girls are driven to suicide or taken away to their family’s country of origin and never seen again. Many Asian parents would rather resort to violence against their children than see their reputation tarnished by the perceived dishonour of allowing them to become “westernised”.
The report, Crimes of the Community, claims the problem is no longer an issue of first-generation migrants importing attitudes from “back home” but is “indigenous and self-perpetuating” because it is sustained by third and fourth-generation immigrants.
The study reveals the case of Saamiya, a 16-year-old girl from Birmingham, whose parents were so angry when they discovered she had a boyfriend that they flew her to Pakistan and told her they had arranged a marriage two hours before the ceremony.
“During the Islamic ceremony my dad was standing behind me with one hand on my shoulder and with his other hand he had a gun which was pointed at my back so that I didn’t say ‘no’,” Saamiya said.
“To everyone else it looked natural — he was just standing there stroking my shoulder — but just before he had told me that he would shoot me if I didn’t go through with it.”
She was rescued from Pakistan by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s forced marriage unit and now lives in a refuge in the Midlands, but has been told that she will be murdered by her brothers. The girl told investigators: “I haven’t been back home since then. My brothers say that they want to take me back to Pakistan so they can kill me basically. They’ll just pay the police there to keep quiet… I don’t want to be killed. I’m only 16. I want to live my life.”
The think-tank’s report comes after Gordon Brown, the prime minister, said last week that he was extremely concerned that too little was being done to prevent honour crimes.
The study criticises the police and schools for failing to take action in a misguided attempt to avoid offending cultural sensibilities.
Karma Nirvana, a support group in Derby, claims it asked local schools last year to display warning posters produced by the forced marriage unit. It said the schools refused.
Derby council last week denied that the group had made the requests, but the prime minister has pledged to investigate reports that the government unit cannot get its advice posters into schools for fear of upsetting local opinion.
According to the report, women who go to the authorities to seek protection have been tracked down through their mobile phones or even by leaks of confidential information from government databases.
Jasvinder Sanghera, director of Karma Nirvana, said that police who find girls who have escaped from their families often simply return them to their parents where they face further abuse, with some Asian officers actually colluding in crimes. Sanghera is taking a case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission of a girl who fled her family but was kidnapped by relatives and held prisoner. She claims that a police officer tipped off the family where the girl was staying.
“Police have a long way to go before they get on top of honour crime. There is a lingering fear among officers of being dubbed racist for probing cultural issues. We’ve got to shake off that myth,” she said.