Rubie Marie, a British-Bangladeshi, was forced to enter a child marriage in Bangladesh 20 years ago
A British woman of Bangladeshi origins has recounted her story of getting forced into marriage at the age of 15, and being raped by her husband every night until she got pregnant.
Rubie Marie, who currently lives in the UK, recently gave an interview to the BBC amidst debates over criminalizing forced marriages, which could potentially stop victims from speaking out, according to a UK charity.
Rubie was born and raised in South Wales. Her happy childhood was soon marred by an unexpected event when she was taken to Bangladesh in 1998 at the age of 15.
"We were only supposed to go for six weeks," she said in the interview. "But it stretched to two months, then it went to three months, then to six months - we all got homesick."
She asked her father when she was supposed to go back home, as she missed her school and her friends, but her father was already planning something under the pretence of coming to Bangladesh for a "holiday".
"I remember it like it was yesterday," she said. "I was sitting down having dinner with the whole family, and then he [her father] just came in, started to eat and out of the blue said: 'Would it not be great if we got Ruby married?'"
Soon, Rubie was forced into a marriage with a man twice her age.
"I was in this alien country - I did not know where to go, where to turn to, did not know where there was a phone. Nothing."
For her engagement, Rubie was "dressed up like a doll", and "treated like an object".
"The house was full of laughing people, trying to come to have a peek at this new bride, and I was just sitting there thinking 'I am just an object'," she said.
Once she was married, her husband wanted a child so "he would get an official British pathway to come to Britain".
"More or less, I would be raped every single day, so he could get a child as an excuse to come to the UK," she said. "That was their [her husband's family's] plan."
After Rubie got pregnant, she came to Wales to give birth.
But when the baby was born, she fled, and was disowned by her family for a very long time.
Rubie now works as an ambassador, educating people about forced marriage.
"It is not all doom and gloom," she said. "And it is not hell. You have got to turn it around. You have got to find that strength to turn it around and use it to your advantage and make it a happy place, otherwise no one is going to do that for you."
Criminalizing forced marriages might stop victims from coming out
Forced marriage became a criminal offence in 2014, but only one case has since been brought in Wales - with four convictions in total across the UK, reports BBC.
However, the Welsh Government estimates there are up to 100 cases of forced marriage every year.
Cardiff-based Henna Foundation member Shahien Taj told BBC Wales Live, more prevention work is necessary to educate perpetrators - often the victims' parents.
The charity said victims often wanted to return to the family home once the situation was resolved.
"All too often, victims do not want any intervention of police," she said.
Taj believes "forced marriage protection orders" are the preferred route - which would allow young people to apply to the courts for protection, while keeping the family out of the criminal system.
"We have had eight cases where young women have gone home, and been able to move on with their lives," she said.
In 2018, 1,196 cases were brought to the forced marriage unit - a joint effort between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office.
The Home Office is consulting on proposals that would legally require those who work closely with young people, such as teachers and social workers, to report suspected cases of forced marriage.
A Home Officer spokesperson said "it is essential that victims have the confidence to come forward to get the help needed".
"We are seeking views on whether introducing a mandatory reporting duty might help strengthen protection for victims and ensure more perpetrators are brought to justice,” the spokesperson said.
"The consultation is open to everyone and we are particularly interested in hearing from victims and survivors of forced marriage, and professionals with expertise in the issue of forced marriage."