Special forced marriage feature: ‘I had no money and felt alone, but I felt free’

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Editorial image

Amina found Karma Nirvana after seeing the charity’s founder Jasvinder Sanghera on TV chat show Jeremy Kyle. Inspired by her story she went and purchased her book ‘Shame’ and then became a volunteer for the charity, once she had freed herself from her oppression.

Amina was dreaming of an academic future as she studied for her A-levels. But her Pakistani parents were planning a different life for Amina and her sister - they were to marry first cousins residing in their native country.

When Amina’s sister fled her West Yorkshire family home, she felt an immense sense of pressure to do the honourable thing, so as to not cause her parents any more shame and give them what they wanted.

At the age of 19, Amina flew to Pakistan and wed Aamir, in 2003. She returned to England alone until Aamir joined her in the UK, 18 months later.

Amina returned to the UK as a married woman, to a man she did not love, and with whom she was expecting her first child.

“I was psychologically pressured into having sex. This man was my husband so it was what he wanted and expected but to me it didn’t feel right.

“He would beat me and tell me I had to go along with it, saying my parents would not believe me.”

Her parents made it clear they would not support Amina in her decision to leave the man who was beating her and they warned her not to involve the police.

In 2010, as the mother of a six-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son, Amina reached breaking point. She could no longer lead the life she was living. Amina fled her home with her two children.

In a women’s refuge in London she lived in fear and constantly looked over her shoulder. Her paranoia of being followed was confirmed when, one day, she spotted her parents watching her and her two children from an onlooking car window.

Her parents had persuaded her to visit a family member in London to receive clothes for the children; it was also arranged that she would be followed back to the refuge so her parents knew her whereabouts.

“My parents would trap me and say they would support me if I came home but really they were on his side and trying to force us back together. I felt like a yo-yo; winding back to them through their pressures and my vulnerability - I had no money and felt alone but finally, I felt free.”

Amina said: “To label it as forced marriage is still very difficult for me. I accepted to marry him, but had I not, the noose would have got tighter.

“It wasn’t until I worked with rape victims that I realised I had endured marital rape. My family and friends all told me to get over it. I don’t think I ever will.

“But my children won’t go through what I did. They will choose who they marry. I broke away for the sake of their future and their children’s future.”

Amina said Islam or Sharia Law does not advocate the oppression of women. It is the pressure of community values, shame and expectations which has caused women, forced into marriage, to feel isolated and choiceless.

She said the Quran 4:19, says: “O ye who believe! Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness, that ye may take away part of the dower ye have given them, except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it may be that ye dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.”

Full-time student and NHS employee Amina is now looking forward to a marriage born out of love whether it is with or without her parents’ blessing.