- Victim tells how her childhood was shockingly ended by the ceremony she mistook for a birthday party
- Forced abroad to live with her husband in Pakistan, she suffered years of abuse before finally finding the strength to seek a divorce
- Now a successful entrepreneur, she wants to show girls in her position there is light at the end of the tunnel
PUBLISHED: 06:12 EST, 8 April 2012 | UPDATED: 06:46 EST, 8 April 20
A successful businesswoman has told of her agony after being forced into an abusive marriage at the age of five – despite living in Britain.
Samina Shah, who is now in her 40s and too frightened to reveal her real name, spoke out after revelations that Britain’s Forced Marriage Unit had handled the case of another five-year-old girl last year.
Mrs Shah said she believed she was being dressed for her fifth birthday party on the day of the Islamic ceremony which effectively ended her childhood.
She told The Sun: ‘There was a lot of activity – a lot of relatives in the house. I was dressed up in an outfit which my mother-in-law had bought for me.
‘My sister told me later that my mother-in-law had said, “At last, the beautiful girl belongs to me!”‘
Pondering why a tiny girl from a large northern town would be forced to undergo such an ordeal, she said she thought it was to do with maintaining tradition – and control.
Mrs Shah was born into a close-knit Asian community, and while her family lived in Britain they remained true to the conventions of remote Pakistani villages.
Aged just 13, she was removed from school without explanation. Instead of an education, she was taught that a woman’s place was in the home – and reminded that the greater her sufferings on earth, the more lavish her reward would be in Paradise.
Samina was still a frightened girl of 14 when she went through the formal wedding ceremony which marked her transition from her parents’ house to that of her husband. At 6am the day after, she was forced onto a plane to Pakistan, told only that she would return to Britain with her husband when she reached 16.
Long before that time, the teenager endured the forced consummation of her marriage after suffering an appalling beating.