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Op-ed: Panorama “Rescued from a Forced Marriage”

Op-ed: Panorama “Rescued from a Forced Marriage”

Op-ed: Panorama “Rescued from a Forced Marriage” 

Panorama, a BBC production, has always been known for stretching the boundaries and their most recent exposé is no exception.

On the 26th January Panorama showed an episode about British girls who are being forced into marriages against their will. The episode saw reporter, Jane Corbin, with a team from the British High Commission in Pakistan as they rescued a victim.

1,400 cases are uncovered and dealt with every year by the Forced Marriage Unit in the Foreign Office in the UK. However, they estimate there are more than 6,000 cases - which means that there are an astonishing number of forced marriages that happen every year.  The Forced Marriage Unit deals with calls from Police, schools as well as victims themselves. Victims include boys as well as girls from over 74 countries.

The programme explained how forced marriages can lead to abuse, rape and even murder. Although forced marriages are now illegal in the UK, some families are taking their children back to countries such as Pakistan so they can be married off during the school holidays.

The episode showed how the victims of forced marriage believe that there are only two options open to them: to either get the High Commission involved or to commit suicide. It portrays the conflicting feelings of the victims, as although they fear for their lives and do not want to be forced into marriage by their families, they also fear for their parents being prosecuted and don’t want to upset them or bring dishonour to the family.

Panorama opened up about a subject that is arguably still very taboo, particularly in Britain today. Arranged marriages are still common in some cultures and although it is a criminal offence to enforce a marriage on unwilling participants in the UK this is not the case everywhere.

Whilst watching the programme my heart went out to the victim as she was locked in her house, hidden from the world. The only contact she had with those outside her family was through her phone to contact the High Commission team.  Not only was she forced into a marriage, but she was also being physically and mentally abused by her parents. By the end of the episode it is clear that although the British High Commission did all they could do to save the victim,  it is the victim’s choice to decide whether they can move on without their families or whether they will go back to their parents. This epitomises the conflicting emotions that must be experienced by the victims themselves, as even though they know what is being done to them is wrong they still love and trust their families.

Forced marriages should be talked about more within all societies today, and whilst it is no ones place to say that a certain culture is wrong, we can at least admit that this tradition is out of place in the modern world. Everyone should be educated about the signs to watch out for and if they think that someone they know is being forced into a marriage that they do not want should be in a position to tell them where to find help. In Britain I believe it is all too easy for issues such as this to be swept under the rug  and to believe that it doesn’t happen, as the vast majority of people living in Britain do not come from the cultures where this is deemed socially acceptable.

Hotlines are in place for victims to call, but there is only so much that can be done if the victims don’t want to criminalise their families. Better support systems need to be put in place to open up a dialogue for victims and their families so that the situation does not escalate and that the victims do not need to fear sending their parents to prison.     

Panorama should be praised as it showed the two conflicting sides of the story of forced marriages and in doing so, has aided in making the subject less taboo in Britain today.  


Nina is in her Honours year at The University of Strathclyde in Glasgow studying History. She loves keeping fit and healthy at the gym and singing to her hearts content. Because of Nina's love of all things history related, she has a passion for reading, writing and researching. Nina is the Editor-in-Chief for an online magazine for female students at Strathclyde called Her Campus Strath and wants to continue her passion for writing after graduation. 


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