LONDON, Feb 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Girls in Britain as young as 11 are being forced into marriage via the internet while others are being secretly wed over the phone, two charities said on Monday.
Imams in Britain and abroad have been conducting ceremonies using Skype to marry British girls remotely to men abroad, said the charity Freedom, which campaigns against forced marriage.
The new husband is often promised that he will get a visa to come to Britain.
In one case, an 11-year-old girl from London was married on Skype to a 25-year-old man in Bangladesh, Freedom’s founder Aneeta Prem said.
The girl, who hadn’t understood the significance of the Skype call at the time, contacted Freedom after reading a book about forced marriage by Prem that her brother was given at school.
“As soon as she was old enough the family were planning to take her out to consummate the marriage,” Prem said.
“She had been pulled out of school and was being taught to be a housewife.”
Prem said only a handful of internet marriages had come to light so far, but the number was increasing.
Forced marriages affect several communities in Britain, but Skype marriages only involve Muslim girls – other faiths require brides and grooms to be physically present during the ceremony, campaigners said.
Another case concerned a 13-year-old girl who said she was forced to marry an 18-year-old Iranian over Skype. A 17-year-old boy was also married on Skype after his family found out he had a white girlfriend.