The Global Slavery Index estimates that there were 136,000 people living in modern slavery in the United Kingdom (UK) on any given day in 2016, reflecting a prevalence rate of 2.1 victims for every thousand people in the country.
According to a 2018 report by the Home Office, in 2018, the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1,196 cases. These figures include contact that has been made to the FMU through the public helpline or by email in relation to a new case. Since 2012, the FMU has provided support to between 1,200 and 1,400 cases per year.
At 18, Khan ran away from home, beginning a year-long cat-and-mouse chase with her paternal uncles.
I tried to disappear. First in Dundee, then in London, where I signed on as a homeless person. Each time I moved, my uncles tracked me down and threatened to kill me if I didn’t go back to my parents.
I was exhausted, and had nowhere to run, but the night I returned one uncle put his hands around my throat and hissed that he’d happily serve 20 years for killing me if I pulled a stunt like that again.
From the day we arrived [in Pakistan] I was bombarded with pressure to marry a man I was distantly related to on my father’s side: uncles and grandparents, calls from Scotland. I was made to feel as if this was something I had to do to compensate for the shame of running away.
The first time I saw this man was at the ceremony. On our wedding night he raped me. When I told my mother this the next day she said, “It’s the husband’s prerogative if he wants to have sex.” “He became controlling and violent. I had to dress in a hijab, behave like a good Pakistani housewife, even though I was tired from going out to work every day.
My mum told me to make my marriage work or to get divorced and marry an older man. She said, and I remember this clearly, “You’re damaged goods now. No one else will want you.” I slashed my wrists across, the way they show it on TV dramas, and I just sat there, crying.
Narrative provided by Karma Nirvana and featured in The Telegraph in an article ‘Forced marriage: the survivors' tales’ by Sally Howard. Photo by Kate Peters.