Neelam Farooq, British High Commission Consular Assistance team on Forced Marriages

Neelam Farooq

Senior Consular Officer at British High Commission, Consular Assistance team on Forced Marriages

Part of UK in Pakistan

8th December 2015 Islamabad, Pakistan

Forced Marriage – You have the right to choose

More than one third of all Forced Marriage cases reported to the Forced Marriage Unit in London are linked to Pakistan. This is four times more than any other country in the world. Last year, 82 cases of Forced Marriage were reported to my Consular Assistance team in Islamabad only. This year, we have offered assistance to 62 victims of forced marriage, so far.

Protecting British citizens overseas is one of the key aims of the UK government’s work to support human rights, democracy and good governance around the world. One way we do this is through our wider work on women’s rights in Pakistan.

A forced marriage is where one or both people do not or cannot consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used. It is recognised in the UK as a form of violence against women and men, domestic abuse, child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights. A forced marriage is different to an arranged marriage where both parties give their consent.

Local communities can play a vital role in raising awareness on this issue. Therefore, we engage with communities at grass roots level through interactive sessions including street theatre, posters exhibitions and debates – aimed at initiating a dialogue, raising the level of awareness and empowering them to tackle this issue.

Our work highlights the short and long term consequences of forced marriages including domestic violence, physical and mental abuse, parental child abduction and abandoned spouses. We organise gender sensitisation workshops for potential partners, police, local judiciary and other administrative officers including Marriage Registrars to develop their understanding of the issue. As a result, Marriage Registrars are better equipped to identify cases of forced marriage and honour crimes and feel empowered to positively influence gender issues at community level.

It is important to realise that women who have faced Domestic Violence require immediate assistance both in terms of shelter and psychological support. We work with our partner NGOs to offer them assistance and psychological support.

Our work in Pakistan is helping to embolden the forced marriages victims to take action on their own behalf and protect their rights by supporting collaborations across communities, and opening space for dialogue among diverse voices.

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About Neelam Farooq

I have been working as a Senior Consular Officer for past eight years. I have worked on the issues of Forced Marriage and Domestic Violence. My job involves dealing with…

I have been working as a Senior Consular Officer for past eight years. I have worked on the issues of Forced Marriage and Domestic Violence. My job involves dealing with young British nationals who have faced abuse and violence at the hands of their closed ones, for them we are the only hope. It can be very challenging to deal with these victims because they find it really hard to open up and talk about their experience. We work closely with our local NGO partners they offer both shelter and Psychological services to these victims.

My job has given me a chance to travel to far flung areas of Pakistan and interact with the local communities on sensitive issues. It has helped me in understanding the reasons behind the cultural practices of forced marriage and made me realise how deeply it is embedded in the society. It gave me a chance to make the communities aware that Forced Marriage is an issue that can lead to devastating results and it can actually breakdown the families instead of bringing them together as it is believed to be the main intent behind them.

I thoroughly enjoy working for Assistance unit (British High Commission) as every day is different and comes with new challenges.

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