Sunday, October 04, 2015

Woman who was forced into marriage at 16 was raped and beaten for 13 YEARS by her abusive husband who was angry that she hadn't given him a son

  • Sajida, who is in her 30s, was forced into an arranged marriage aged 16
  • She married in Pakistan and the couple moved back to London 
  • Her husband was furious when she bore him four daughters and no son
  • Allegedly he tried to poison her and gas her with a cooker
  • Sajida escaped with her daughters, bringing 'shame' to her family  
A woman has told how she was subjected to 13 years of violence at the hands of her own husband, who raped her, beat her and tried to poison her. 

Sajida, who has Pakistani heritage but lives in Manchester, was forced into marriage with her cousin when she was just 16 and her new husband was 23.

Now in her 30s, Sajida was only 17 when she fell pregnant and went on to have four daughters, which angered her husband as he wished to have boys.

Sajida, pictured wearing a disguise to protect her identity, has Pakistani heritage but lives in Manchester. She was forced into marriage when she was just 16 and her new husband was 23
Sajida, pictured wearing a disguise to protect her identity, has Pakistani heritage but lives in Manchester. She was forced into marriage when she was just 16 and her new husband was 23

The girls were not allowed to play outside or even allowed to laugh.

Despite the abuse, charges against the woman's husband were dropped – something the police said was not uncommon.

Speaking for the first time about her relationship, the woman, known only as Sajida – who wanted to be anonymous to protect her children – said: 'I got pregnant aged 17, but I wish I hadn't because we found out it was a girl and he wanted a boy.

'We couldn't breathe or think properly when he was around. The girls weren't allowed to laugh or giggle, they weren't allowed to play in the front garden in case boys looked at them.

'I was only allowed to leave the house to do things with the children. I wasn't allowed a social life. I was isolated from all my family and friends.

'I survived only because of my girls.

Sajida said she was only ten years old when she heard rumours she was going to be married.

She said: 'Cousins started telling me but I thought it was banter, a bit of a joke. He was a 16-year-old cousin and lived in Pakistan, where my parents are from.

 I'd never met him or seen a photo so I just dismissed it. I only knew he was my cousin.'

But the rumours persisted, with uncles, aunties and cousins all talking about it.

Her immediate family said nothing until she was about to take her GCSEs.

'I was 16 when the older generation in my family told me I was going to Pakistan with my father,' she said.

'Cousins told me that I was going away and might be getting married, but my parents never said anything directly to me. I was in the middle of my GCSEs and I couldn't believe it. I thought, "No way am I getting married, they just want to take me for a holiday".

He raped me, there was a lot of mental torture, there was a lot of physical violence 
'I was excited to be going away, but in denial that any marriage was going to happen. I thought I would come back and finish my exams.

'I really liked history and English and I'd done work experience in the school office and at a local nursery school. I liked both and was looking forward to getting a career.'

Excitement mounted as the day of the trip approached in 1996, but after she arrived and her marriage was confirmed, she began to panic.

'Everybody was busy organising the wedding. I'd never met any of these people. I thought, "Oh God, this is going ahead",' she said.

'I was told, "If you don't do it, you'll bring shame on the family." I was also told that I could go back to my studies if I listened to them.'

The wedding arrangements whirled around her in a blur, her husband-to-be lurking somewhere in the background, yet to be introduced.

'I was given no choice over wedding dress, shoes, jewellery or husband. Everything was chosen for me,' she said.

She describes her wedding day – when she first met her husband – as devastating, saying she 'cried the whole day' while he remained emotionless.

She knew nothing about sex, but was to lose her virginity that night.

'One of his sisters told me what to expect,' she said. 'The way she said it was shocking and by the time she finished I was feeling quite scared.

That night, after he'd done what he wanted to do, he left me on my own and went out somewhere. He didn't say where. I was left alone, crying and scared, wondering what had just happened.'

She spent three months in Pakistan and was continually forced to have sex. She came home alone and her husband joined her three months later.

From there, she was dragged deeper and deeper into a cycle of brutal abuse.

'He raped me, there was a lot of mental torture, there was a lot of physical violence,' she said.
'I had a knife held to me. Then he got this cable wire and he beat me up and I had scars all over my leg and my back.

'He tried to gas me with the cooker and tried to poison me.'

After her husband beat her whilst she was pregnant with her fourth child, she finally found the courage to dial 999.

 Dad cried and says now he wishes he wouldn't have let this happen. But he's my father, he should have protected me
Her husband was charged but Sajida was persuaded to drop the charges by family who used emotional blackmail.

'I was told that a family member with a weak heart would literally die of shame,' she said.

'There was a lot of pressure from family members who said, "Stick by him. What will the community think?"'

But defiant, she found the strength to call police again two years later, after her husband threatened their children, who are now aged between 11 and 18.

'He used to say he was going to sell them off, he was going to marry them off as a lesson for getting him arrested,' she said. 'I didn't want my girls to suffer for the rest of their lives.'

Sajida, who has since returned to her studies and wants to become a nurse, took out injunctions against her husband, and the only time she has seen him since the split was in court to renew injunctions and fight her ex-husband's claim for custody of the children.

She also found the courage to confront her father.

'My dad was under the thumb of his family members,' she said. 'He had to do what they told him and he said he took me abroad just to please them.

'Dad cried and says now he wishes he wouldn't have let this happen. But he's my father, he should have protected me.

'I will never let anything like this happen to my girls.'

Forced marriage has been illegal in the UK since 2014, but thousands of woman and girls just like Sajida, fall victim each year.

Most are engaged before hitting puberty, but some girls are betrothed at birth – with frequently devastating consequences.

The problem mostly affects Asian teenagers and the brave young women who say no, risk isolation, violence and even murder.

The government's Forced Marriage Unit says that in 2014 they offered help and support to 1,267 possible forced marriage cases.

But Jasvinder Sanghera, from the forced marriage victim support charity, Karma Nirvana, says that figure is not even the tip of the iceberg.

The figure quoted in a Channel 4 documentary, in which her story is featured, is that 8,000 are threatened each year.

There was certainly no fairytale ending for Sajida - just a spiral of worsening abuse. 

Detective Chief Superintendent Vanessa Jardine of Greater Manchester police, said: 'We are not seeing anything like the reality of the situation. There will be many more victims in the community.'

Greater Manchester Police added: 'A forced marriage is a criminal offence and is a marriage conducted without the valid consent of one or both parties, where duress is a factor.

'Duress can include physical, sexual, emotional, and financial and psychological pressure. This will include coercion and deception to force someone into marrying.

'Forced marriages are a form of domestic abuse and are dealt with as such by the police
'We are aware that there are a number of cases going unreported and we hope to encourage more reporting by raising awareness of the issues.' 

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