Farhana: survivor of child marriage
On Monday, 27 February I will join Pauline Latham MP and the consortium of charities that form Girls Not Brides UK in the Houses of Parliament to mark the advent of the The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 coming into effect.
The law now unequivocally defines child marriage exactly as it is, child abuse and a crime. The legal ambiguity of what happened to me as child, forced into marriage by my mother but unable to prove it, left me unable to identify as a victim. Had that explicit clarity in law been there when I was 16, I firmly believe that my otherwise law-abiding family, would not have contemplated my marriage and this in turn would have prevented the decades of hardship and harm I had to overcome.
As a child wholly reliant on my parents, married and now a young mother, it was not only precarious but impossible for me to bear the consequences of actively incriminating my parents for forcing me into marriage. I am relieved the change in law will lift that onus from the shoulders of children. The new legislation I hope, will act as a deterrent, help safeguard children’s futures and ensure any perpetrators who nonetheless go on to commit this crime, face justice.
I thank Karma Nirvana (the charity for which I am an ambassador) for encouraging me to join their campaign and share my testimony with national media outlets and government organisations, after 20 years of self-imposed silence. My experiences, traumatic as they were, having in some way influenced a change in law has been the closure I needed and will be the legacy I leave for my children.
To be sat with two of them, in the Houses of Parliament, and hear my name uttered amongst the awe-inspiring group of women who campaigned together tirelessly, was a true honour. Those women selflessly and courageously shared their own harrowing stories, led charities advocating for change, and skilfully drafted legislation. Their voices were championed by Pauline Latham MP and Bariness Liz Sugg, who between them, successfully navigated both Houses with cross party support to pass this into law. To have done so against the tumultuous backdrop of recent UK political history was a monumental feat, that may not have otherwise been possible had it not been for their tenacity. Endless gratitude to them all.