LONDON — A woman in Britain has been jailed for forcing her young daughter to marry a man in Pakistan in the first successful forced marriage prosecution in England.
The victim, now 19 and who cannot be named for legal reasons, was just 13 when she was forced to enter into a marriage contract with a relative 16 years older than her. She became pregnant and returned to Britain, where she had an abortion.
The girl's doctor reported his concerns to social services, but her 45-year-old mother — who cannot be named because it would identify her daughter — portrayed the pregnancy as "two teenagers who had sneakily had sex," prosecutors told the court in Birmingham, central England.
The court heard that in September 2016 when the girl was 17 her mother tricked her into traveling to Pakistan under the pretext of a family vacation and also promised an iPhone for her impending 18th birthday.
When the girl found out the marriage plan and protested, her mother threatened to burn her passport and assaulted her, the BBC reported. She was forced to marry the man.
The girl eventually returned to Britain with government assistance.
Britain introduced an offense of forced marriage in 2014 following years of campaigning. Prosecutions have been rare however, partially because victims often do not want to report their relatives to the authorities.
The mother, who has three other children, was found guilty of two counts of forced marriage Tuesday by a jury and sentenced Wednesday.
Prosecutor Deborah Gould told the hearing that the victim felt guilty for reporting her mother to the police but was “proud of herself for coming to court.”
"It takes no imagination to understand the terror she must have felt," Judge Patrick Thomas told the mother.
"You had cruelly deceived her. She was frightened, alone, held against her will, being forced into a marriage she dreaded.
"You must have known that was her state of mind. Yet for your own purposes, you drove the marriage through."
The government’s Forced Marriage Unit says it has issued more than 1,500 forced marriage protection orders since 2008. The court orders — a step short of criminal prosecution — are designed to prevent people from being forced to wed.
A 34-year-old man in Wales was the first person in the U.K. to be prosecuted under forced marriage laws in 2015, a year after the laws were introduced.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was sentenced to 16 years in prison after pleading guilty to forcing a 25-year-old woman to marry him as well as rape, bigamy and voyeurism.
The BBC reported the court heard the man became obsessed with the woman — a devout Muslim — and threatened to kill her father if she didn’t marry him. He also threatened to release videos he secretly filmed of her in the shower and kill her family members if she told anyone.
Forced marriage is an issue in many countries, including the United States. Many nations have laws banning the practice, but they often are not enforced.
Sherry Johnson, who was 11 when she was forced to marry her 20-year-old rapist in 1971, campaigned for six years to ban child marriages in her home state of Florida. She was hailed a hero in March after state lawmakers passed a bill prohibiting marriage for anyone younger than 17.
Unchained At Last, an organization fighting against forced and arranged marriages, claims while most states set the minimum marriage age at 18, every state allows minors to get married through exceptions. In many states, 16- and 17-year-olds can get married with approval from a judge or their parents.
About 167,000 children were married in the U.S. from 2000 to 2010, Unchained data from 38 states show.
Contributing: Sean Rossman, The Associated Press