Friday, December 19, 2008

Heroine: Humayra Abedin, M.D.

NHS doctor saved from forced marriage gets court safeguards
Peter Walker and agencies, Friday 19 December 2008 13.41 GMT

An NHS doctor tricked into returning to Bangladesh, where her parents held her captive and forced her into a marriage, won high court protection today from any renewed attempts to remove her from the UK.

Humayra Abedin, 32, a Bangladeshi national from Upton Park, east London, returned to Britain on Tuesday after being held by her parents for four months. Today, she said she had spent much of this interned in a psychiatric hospital being given anti-psychotic drugs against her will.

After today's hearing, she urged other women trapped in forced marriages to come forward. "Don't give up hope – there is hope." Abedin was eventually freed by a court in Bangladesh. Earlier this month, the high court in London issued an order for her release under the Forced Marriage Act.

Today, Mr Justice Coleridge issued a series of orders obliging Abedin's parents to not remove from the UK, harass her or threaten her. "I shall grant further orders to protect Dr Abedin and prevent her being removed from this country again without her consent," the judge said in his ruling.

Abedin was separately seeking an annulment of the marriage, which would take weeks, her lawyer, Anne-Marie Hutchinson, said.

Abedin, who came to Britain six years ago to study and now works as a GP, reportedly went to Bangladesh in the summer after being falsely being told her mother was ill. She was then held against her will and, in mid-November, was forced to marry a man chosen by her parents.

The doctor said today she spent much of this time held in a psychiatric hospital. "I was held there for three months and forced to take medication, anti-psychotic drugs, which made things worse," she said.

She said she had been "always monitored by four or five guards and was not free to leave the property" — her passport, tickets and other documents were taken from her. She was injected against her will "with what she believed to be mood stabilisers and anti-psychotic drugs".

She said she wanted to "get back to my normal life, start my job", and insisted she bore no ill will against her mother and father: "They are my parents, they are still my parents. I do not have any bad feelings against them, any grudges."

Abedin is believed to have raised the alarm by sending a text message saying: "Please help me. My life is in danger." She also called her long-term boyfriend, a Hindu who works as a software engineer. The couple live together in a house in Upton Park.

The 2007 Forced Marriage Act was designed to protect vulnerable individuals coerced into legally binding partnerships. Most cases dealt with by the Foreign Office's forced marriage unit involve families with Asian connections. The department has so far helped in 180 such disputes overseas.

Hutchinson has said there are believed to be around 300 to 350 similar cases affecting British women.

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