My friends at university thought that I was crazy to have married my husband at 16, but I thought I was doing the right thing at the time. It didn’t really feel like I had any other options so I went along with it. But when I think about it now, I realise that my parents put so much pressure on me that I didn’t have a choice. It was hard to admit it at first, but now I know my marriage was forced.

I’d just finished my GCSEs and I didn’t have anyone to turn to apart from my family. My parents said I would shame them if I didn’t go through with it. I didn’t want to lose my family so I had no choice but to marry Anil.

Three years later I was at university, studying to become a lawyer. I knew that I had to leave Anil. I didn’t love him and I wanted a better life for myself, with someone that I really wanted to be with. I joined the Womens’ Society and one day we were discussing forced marriage. Suddenly, I was crying. I spoke to one of the members of the society privately and everything poured out.

A few days later, I spoke to someone from Student Support Services over the phone. He said he could put me in touch with a solicitor to apply for a divorce and a women’s organisation who could support me through the whole process. It was really hard, but I knew I was doing the right thing.

I left Anil and stayed with different friends over the next few months. It took time to sort out a place to live and how I would finance myself and my studies but I was helped by my solicitor and the women’s organisation. The hardest part wasn’t even telling Anil, it was telling my parents. They were angry and threatened to take me abroad and remarry me. But talking to the women’s group at university had given me confidence and made me realise that even though I love my parents, what they were doing was wrong.

Today I’m finishing my degree, and enjoying every minute of it. I hope I’ll get married again one day, but next time it will be to somebody I choose. I hope that one day my parents will see that what they did to me was wrong and that I’ll have a relationship with them again. I feel as though that day might come, but it will take time. One of the hardest things about cutting myself off from the family was that I couldn’t see my younger sister. But we talk secretly on the phone and she supports me as much as she can. It’s very hard at times, but I‘m so glad to finally be living my own life.

Select Story