AN AUTHOR whose family tried to force him into a marriage as a youngster has welcomed the introduction of a law to criminalise the act.
Alexander Khan, who wrote Orphan of Islam about his experiences, said he believed the law, which comes into force on Monday (June 16), could potentially save lives.
The new rules mean forced marriage protection orders can be put in place to protect children. If they are breached, parents can be sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Mr Khan, from East Lancashire, said: “It is absolutely brilliant. I am over the moon because so many people have suffered.
“Forced marriage needs to stop. It has been happening for many many years, but in the UK we should not be forcing people to marry.”
The 38-year-old was brought up in a tight-knit Muslim community in the 1970s and at the age of around 10 he was sent to Pakistan and made to attend an Islamic fundamentalist school, famed for training some of the Taliban’s top scholars and fighters.
He was told he would marry a girl that he was sat next to when he was older.
Once Mr Khan turned 16, he was taken to Pakistan again where family members told him he must get married to the teenager.
He spoke no Arabic, and had little knowledge of the Qur’an and was regularly beaten for his ‘crimes’.
But, with the help of a brave fellow pupil, Mr Khan said he escaped, making his way across the Pakistani desert and reaching the village his relatives lived in.
He then joined the British Army as a way of escaping from his family.
Arranged marriages are different to forced marriages because even though families set people up, they are not pressurised into getting married.
Mr Khan said: “If this law had have been in place and I had have been aware of it at that time, I would have gone straight to the police.
“I think families will get a bit more clever and try to get around it.
“But over all, I think it is brilliant because it is going to raise so much awareness.
“It is all going to come out in the public domain.
“This law could save people’s lives.”