A 14-year-old girl from a Muslim family in the U.K. was forced at gunpoint to marry a 24-year-old man in Pakistan, by whom she became pregnant. Despite the “harrowing” circumstances of the marriage, a U.K. High Court judge ruled that it was beyond his powers to intervene.
A hearing by the Family Division of the High Court in Birmingham produced a written ruling with the details of the case, The Independent reported.
“The girl has given an account of the circumstances surrounding that marriage which are, frankly, harrowing,” said Mr. Justice Holman, who judged the case.
“On her account ... this was a grave example of a marriage which was forced under considerable duress, involving at one stage the production of a gun and physical violence upon her.”
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The girl, who remains unidentified, was taken to Pakistan at age 14 by her father, who became a U.K. citizen more than 30 years ago. There she was forced to marry a 24-year-old man, became pregnant and came back to the U.K. to have her baby. She is now 17 years old.
Once she came out with her story, she and her baby were taken into care, the Daily Mail reported. A local authority asked Mr. Justice Holman to nullify her marriage, as if it had never taken place.
While the judge expressed his sympathy for the girl and the “real stigma” she faced, he ruled that he was “powerless” to make a former ruling nullifying the marriage. A statute barred him from formally declaring that her marriage was “at its inception, void.”
It is now up to the girl to nullify her own marriage.
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“She is the victim of forced marriage and rape,” said Vanessa Meachin, the girl’s barrister, according to the Huffington Post. “She is 17 and struggling with the complexities of the two sets of legal proceedings that she is already involved in. It is unrealistic to consider that she is equipped to proceed with a petition for nullity.”
An investigative documentary of forced Muslim marriages within the UK reveals that unions between 14-year-old girls and older men are on the rise in the British Muslim community.
Forced marriage is not yet a crime in the U.K. While the legal age for marriage under U.K. law is 16, Islamic Sharia law condones marriage once a girl reaches puberty.