LONDON, Oct 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When Zee was 13, she returned from school one day to find an engagement party under way at her home in northern England, but her excitement at the celebrations quickly turned to shock.
“I asked my mum who’s getting married. She said, ‘It’s you’,” Zee told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Her betrothed was represented by a photo – an older cousin she had never met who lived in Afghanistan, her parents’ country of birth.
“One day I’m not even allowed to talk to boys and the next I’m told I’m getting married,” Zee said.
“I was dressed up to look like a Christmas tree – very sparkly, very bling. Everyone was happy. The only person who was miserable was me.”
Child marriage – defined internationally as marriage under 18 – remains legal in Britain. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, teenagers can wed at 16 with parental consent. In Scotland, they do not need consent.
Zee, who did not want to give her full name, escaped by running away from home, but she says many girls are still being pushed into marriage.
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