A lady, Jasvinder Sanghera has narrated how her sister was forced to burn herself to death just so she can escape an abusive arranged marriage and how she was disowned and branded a prostitute because she fled hers at the age of 16
Jasvinder narrates how she was locked in her bedroom after being told she was soon to be married off to a much older man and she was only 15.
After she’s been tormented for two long weeks for refusing to go with her parents’ plan, she knew the only way out was to agree to marry the stranger, whom her family had arranged for her to wed from the age of eight.
Jasvinder says those two weeks “felt like a lifetime” and even though she had initially agreed to go through with the marriage, she became extremely depressed.
She tried to take her own life with tablets at some point, but was allegedly refused medical treatment by her parents who told her attempting suicide “wouldn’t change anything”.
Seeing there was nothing she could do to make her parents change their minds, she decided to run away from home in 1981 ahead of her wedding. She was then disowned by her family for bringing “shame” upon them and later branded a “prostitute” by her mother.
Tragically, her sister Robina suffered an even worse fate.
Years after Jasvinder fled the house, Robina accepted an alleged forced marriage that went bad, leading her to kill herself at the age of 25, she horrifically set herself on fire with an oil lamp.
“My family disowned me for what I had done, the only person I had a relationship with was my sister and that was in secret,” Jasvinder, now 56, said.
“There was domestic abuse within her marriage and despite pleading with her to leave him she feared dishonouring the family.
“She begged mum and dad to help, who called in a community leader, but she was made to return to her abusive partner.
“One night, she told them she was going to set herself on fire, went upstairs, took an oil lamp and poured it on herself.
“I had no idea she had died until someone who knew my family came up to the marketplace where I worked and told me to call home.
“It seemed they thought it was better for my sister to take her own life than leave her husband and bring dishonour and shame to them.
“The worst part is that she was suffering domestic violence and they continued to send her back to her abuser – in my opinion, my sister was driven to suicide.”
Last month, shocking new data revealed that the number of honour-based abuse offences recorded by police in England has soared 81 per cent over the past five years.
Jasvinder and her sister were raised as Sikhs, they were two of seven sisters and throughout their childhood, they watched their sisters being flown overseas to be married in their teens.
Jasvinder claims her school never questioned their absences and after one sister returned, they were put into the same class – despite her being older.
When she was 14, Jasvinder was sat down for a talk with her mother, who explained for the first time how she must go through with an arranged marriage.
“I came home from school and mum showed me a picture of a man who looked much older and was shorter than me,” she recalls.
“I didn’t want to marry a stranger but mum said I had to and I would damage my family’s reputation if I dared to say ‘No’.
“Never had any of my sisters questioned her and at 15 – after I protested – I was taken out of school and held prisoner in a room with a padlock on the door.
“I was locked in the room for what seemed a lifetime. Roughly it was for a couple of weeks until I finally agreed to marry – but even then my freedom was monitored for longer.”
After she was finally freed from the room, Jasvinder attempted an overdose but says she was told by her family that it “wouldn’t change anything”.
“They refused to take me to the hospital and coffee was poured down my throat,” she adds.
Unable to take it anymore, Jasvinder ran away at 16 years old and says she was “thankful” that a police officer believed her claims and didn’t try to send her home.”
“If I would have been taken home for family mediation, I would have been in a dangerous position,” she says.
“Often families will say anything and everything the police want to hear – but when the door is closed, that’s when a person is most at serious risk.
“When I was locked in the room, my best friend came to my house to ask where I was and my mother shooed her away.
“I’m sure my family would have given an Oscar-winning performance to explain my absence if they needed to.”
After running away, the police officer encouraged Jasvinder to call her family and during the call, she claims to have been issued with a blunt threat.
“Mum was very clear, ‘You either come home and marry who we say or from this day forward you are now dead in our eyes’, she recalls.
“Later she told me, ‘I hope you give birth to a daughter who does to you what you have done to me and only then will you know what it feels like to raise a prostitute’.”
Jasvinder now has children and grandchildren of her own but claims her family has refused to acknowledge her or any of her offspring.
She has, however, channelled her energy into helping those who have been affected by “honour-based” offences.