Credo: Jasvinder Sanghera
Forced-marriage campaigner, 43
Sunday 25 January 2009
I questioned things and was thinking differently from the rest of my family from a young age. I was 14 when my mother showed me a photograph of the man I was going to marry. I ended up running away, hoping she would let me come back without having to go through with it. But when I rang home, she said, "If you don't do what we say, you will be dead in our eyes." I decided not to go back. I lost everything I'd ever known overnight.
Writing my autobiography, Shame, was a cathartic process, but I got away lightly compared with the women I met whose stories I tell in my new book, Daughters of Shame. I've not been kidnapped, abducted, drugged or raped. I knew these were the stories that needed to be told.
We need to empower victims to go through our criminal justice system and hold the perpetrators to account. If a girl goes into a police station and reports forced marriage, it's not recorded as a criminal offence. There's something wrong there.
A lot of people are scared of talking about forced marriage as they think, "It's part of Asian culture, we don't want to upset them." The sooner we stop worrying about political correctness, the sooner families will stop getting away with these crimes.
Getting a degree was one of my biggest achievements, because I was the kid who left school without any qualifications. I'd never even read a book until I was 27. I remember going to lectures and hearing all these words I'd never heard before and looking them up in the dictionary at the end of the day. It was a wonderful experience.
I'm not part of an Asian community any more. My community is the thousands of women like me who have been disowned by their families, and who are rebuilding their lives, developing a belief system that embraces the rights that Britain gives you.
'Daughters of Shame' by Jasvinder Sanghera is published by Hodder & Stoughton at £6.99
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