children being forced into marrying strangers through Skype
ceremonies are becoming a “growing trend,” the head of
Freedom charity has said.
Prem, who founded the organisation, told Eastern
Tuesday (1) that the practice, which involves Imams conducting
Islamic ceremonies over the internet, was the most extreme
example of forced marriage she had heard about.
some cases, the new spouse is promised a visa to the UK before
victims, who can be of either sex, are flown to the partner’s
country to consummate the marriage.
has helped a home-schooled, 11-year-old girl from London who was
married on Skype to a 25-year-old man in Bangladesh. She contacted
the charity in November after reading But
It’s Not Fair,
a fictional account of a child bride, penned by Prem, which her older
brother was given at school.
the time, the girl had not realised the Sykpe call was a marriage
ceremony, Prem said. The plan was for her to meet her husband at a
later date and fall pregnant.
are now saying to children, ‘go into your room’ and the laptop is
on, and then they find themselves in the middle of a marriage
ceremony. The fact is they are at home with their parents, there
isn’t anywhere else for them to go,” Prem told Eastern
had a handful of cases, so has the Forced Marriage Unit and other
agencies. It’s a growing trend. Parents know if they take
their children out of the country they may be spotted or there may be
resistance, but this is almost instant.”
someone into marriage became a criminal act in 2014 but so far, there
has only been one conviction. It affects several communities in
Britain, but Skype marriages mostly involve Muslim children – other
faiths require brides and grooms to be physically present during the
ceremony, campaigners said.
the relatively new legislation, parents can be convicted of the
internet-based offence, and the police are investigating a number of
cases, Prem told Eastern
would hope there will be some convictions in the future. But unless
anyone has actual proof of it taking place, it’s very difficult –
that’s what we’ve been told,” she said.
explained there was less chance of being caught, which is why
families were using this unconventional method. It is also carried
out in a bid to stop youngsters becoming “too Western”.
case where Freedom intervened involved a 17- year-old boy from
Birmingham who was married on Skype to a teenager from Pakistan,
because his relatives were furious that he had a white girlfriend. A
forced marriage protection order was enforced to stop his parents
from taking him abroad.