British girl rescued from forced marriage to cousin in Pakistan

The girl’s father had arranged the marriage without her consent

Photo: iStock

Pramod Thomas

A 13-year-old British schoolgirl narrowly escaped a forced marriage to her cousin in Pakistan after her mother’s desperate plea for help reached authorities back home in the UK, reported MailOnline.

The girl’s father had arranged the marriage without her consent, leaving her and her mother stranded in Pakistan under the control of his relatives.

The girl’s mother, alarmed by the situation, managed to send a distress message to a neighbour in England, who, belonging to a women’s anti-abuse charity, promptly alerted British authorities, including the police and the government’s Forced Marriage Unit.

“I messaged my neighbour in alarm because my child was about to be married to a grown man on the orders of her father,” the girl’s mother was quoted as saying.

“We went to Pakistan last August on a family holiday. When we got there, I found out my husband had tricked us both.”

Following weeks of intervention, legal proceedings, and diplomatic efforts, the British Embassy in Pakistan successfully persuaded the father’s family to return the passports, enabling the mother and daughter to return to the UK.

A court order highlighting the danger of forced marriage was issued to Interpol to prevent the child from being taken out of Pakistan unlawfully.

The girl’s mother, speaking anonymously to protect her daughter’s identity, recounted the harrowing experience, detailing how her husband’s controlling behaviour escalated over the years, culminating in the attempt to force their daughter into marriage.

Despite facing financial hardship and community pressure, the mother courageously sought assistance, emphasising the need for greater awareness and support from social services for individuals in similar situations.

Rani Bilkhu, the founder of Jeena International, which helps women in ethnic communities, emphasised the importance of addressing forced marriages within ethnic communities and urged British social services to prioritise such cases.

“This mother has decided to speak as a warning to others from the Punjabi community about the danger of their daughters being sent from the UK to enter underage forced marriages in Pakistan,” she told the media outlet.

“We told the social services in our area, but they had not contacted the mother at any point. That is very worrying. We want British social services to take these cases seriously.”

In 2022, the Forced Marriage Unit of Britain probed 297 cases, with nearly half associated with scheduled weddings in Pakistan. Approximately 30 per cent of those affected were minors, frequently holding British citizenship.