Girls as young as nine are being forced to marry in mosques in Islington, according to the findings of a leading women’s rights group.
The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) has reported that at least 30 forced marriages took place in the borough in 2010, involving at least three 11-year old and two 9-year old girls.
Similarly, the Ministry of Justice revealed details of over 30 applications for Forced Marriage Protection Orders in 2011, of which “five or fewer” were made to protect children aged 9 to 11.
IKWRO has warned that child marriages in Britain could be on the increase, with hundreds of Muslim girls facing physical, sexual and emotional abuse as a result.
Dianna Nammi, director of IKWRO said:
“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.
“The reason it doesn’t get out is because they are too terrified to speak out, and also the control their families have over them is impossible to imagine if you’re not going through it. The way it is covered up is so precise, almost unspeakable.”
Ms Nammi said that the girls are married off to family friends or family members to stop them from losing their virginity to anyone not chosen by their father.
Rojin (not her real name) told the Islington Tribune that she had been forcibly married at the age of 12 to a 32 year-old man from Birmingham, who forced her to sleep with him.
The marriages are conducted by Imams under sharia law, rendering them illegal and void under British law.
Yet the BBC recently reported that an increasing number of Muslims in Britain are now making use of sharia courts to resolve family and financial disputes in line with Islamic principles, with cases having tripled over the past three to five years.
A report issued by think tank Civitas in 2009 revealed that approximately 85 sharia tribunals were operating freely in the UK.
In certain circumstances the use of sharia law in the UK is legally binding. Yet the distinction between Islamic courts and the British legal system is often blurred. Ignorance about the provision and protections enjoyed by individuals under British law, coupled with intimidation within some muslim communities, can lead to great injustices being endured by women.