Girls as young as nine-years-old are being forced into marriage in the London Borough of Islington, with marriages carried out by back street Imans. Although child marriage is illegal in Britain, families circumvent the law by conducting marriages in shariah courts attached to mosques.
The Islington Tribune
reported on the growing trend in which girls under 16 years-of-age are forcibly married to often middle-aged men. They cited figures provided by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) showing at least 30 girls were forced into marriage in the Islington borough in 2010. Five of the girls were aged between nine and eleven, the oldest were sixteen.
The UK's Forced Marriage Unit
says that each year 3,000 girls are forced to marry against their will, with the summer school holidays being the most busiest time. The New Humanist Organization
also reveals that the school holidays are the most dangerous times for girls to suffer enforced female genital mutilation, when British school girls are taken abroad for the procedure which is illegal in Britain.
Dianna Nammi, director of IKWRO, described the ordeal of child brides. She noted they are forced to sleep with their husbands, which would be a crime under British law, and said
"They have to cook for them, wash their clothes, everything. They are still attending schools in Islington, struggling to do their primary school homework, and at the same time being practically raped by a middle-aged man regularly and being abused by their families. So they are a wife, but in a primary school uniform."
According to the ICRW
child brides are more likely to suffer from domestic violence and sexually contracted diseases. They often "show signs symptomatic of sexual abuse and post-traumatic stress such as feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and severe depression."
Imam Ahmed Saad of Finsbury Park Mosque condemned the practice which he describes as cultural rather than Islamic. He said "This is down to ignorance, and ignorant people who will use any excuse they can to do this to their children. It is the practice in their home countries and they don’t want to stop that here, so they will say it’s in the Koran, when it is not. According to Islam, it is entirely unacceptable."
Saad went on to say that such forced marriages are child abuse and that the Imams involved are uneducated. A spokesman for the Forced Marriage Unit said that forced marriages of under-age children is a criminal matter.