Saying No to a Forced Marriage?
19 year old Balkiss Chaibou has spoken out in her home country, Niger, about the negative effects that the aggressive and prevalent tradition of forced marriage is having on young girls in Africa.
Belonging to the Tuareg (an ethnic group in Niger) forced marriage is seen by many as the only solution to the crippling economic problems that face many families here. For others, if their children are not married off very young, it can be seen as a shameful thing to their family, so many choose to do so, even if they do not agree with the practice.
- Balkiss found out at just 12 that she was to be married to her cousin, from neighbouring Nigeria.
- She had always had a passion for school and learning, waking at 3:00am to study; she longed to become a doctor in the future.
- As her 16th birthday approached, as well as a suitcase and wedding outfit, she realised the marriage would be happening soon, and sought outside help.
- After approaching her principal for help, he referred her to the Centre for Judicial Assistance and Civic Action, enabling her to proceed with legal action against her father and uncle for forcing her into a marriage she did not want.
- This did not go down well with her family; she was threatened, and subsequently spent some time in a women's refuge.
- Balkiss has since repaired the rift – her family no longer support the forced marriage route for their children.
- She also campaigns for other girls to follow her example and say "no" to forced marriage.
How Common Are Forced Marriages?
The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)
rates Niger as the number 1 country in the world for child marriages. A massive 75% of girls are married before they are 18 years old
. Not everyone feels able to stand up and say no to marriage as Balkiss – and this is not just limited to the African countries.In 2014, the UK's Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) dealt with 1267 different cases, of which 79% were female victims.
Carol Chrisfield comments:"Balkiss's story is courageous and inspiring in equal measure, and highlights the lengths that women must go to in some countries to get out of situations that they do not want to be a part of.
The sad part of this story is that forced marriages are not uncommon in the UK – in some domestic violence cases we also see women who have been coerced into marriages that they do not want by their families.
The psychological impact of this and the emotional scars often last a very long time.
We work hard with clients to stop this potentially life changing situation, and help them to take control of their life."
Could Simpson Millar Help You?
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, there are charities and other organisations that can help you in the first instance, such as Women's Aid
, and the 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline
Alternatively, if you're worried that you're being forced into a marriage that you don't want, and need legal support, you can rest assured that our team of Family Law solicitors
will offer you the discrete, confidential legal advice that you need.No matter what situation you may find yourself in, we'll give you the options you need to take back control and remove yourself from a toxic environment.