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In Britain, Young Muslim girls are being forced into marriage over Skype

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Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks with Aneeta Prem from Freedom Charity (L) and Jasvinder Sanghera of Karwia Nirvana, during a meeting with the forced marriage unit in the Foreign Office in central London June 8, 2012. REUTERS/Jon Bond/Pool
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By Emma Batha

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation): Girls in Britain as young as 11 are being forced into marriage via the internet while others are being secretly wed over the phone, two charities said on Monday.

Imams in Britain and abroad have been conducting ceremonies using Skype to marry British girls remotely to men abroad, said the charity Freedom, which campaigns against forced marriage.

The new husband is often promised that he will get a visa to come to Britain.

In one case, an 11-year-old girl from London was married on Skype to a 25-year-old man in Bangladesh, Freedom’s founder Aneeta Prem said.

The girl, who hadn’t understood the significance of the Skype call at the time, contacted Freedom after reading a book about forced marriage by Prem that her brother was given at school.

“As soon as she was old enough the family were planning to take her out to consummate the marriage,” Prem said.

“She had been pulled out of school and was being taught to be a housewife.”

Prem said only a handful of internet marriages had come to light so far, but the number was increasing.

Forced marriages affect several communities in Britain, but Skype marriages only involve Muslim girls – other faiths require brides and grooms to be physically present during the ceremony, campaigners said.

Another case concerned a 13-year-old girl who said she was forced to marry an 18-year-old Iranian over Skype. A 17-year-old boy was also married on Skype after his family found out he had a white girlfriend.

“MARRIAGE BY PHONE”

Britain made forced marriage illegal in 2014. It is also a crime to take someone abroad to be married against their will.

Prem said Skype marriages were attractive to some families because the marriage was instant and they were less likely to get caught.

Karma Nirvana, another British charity which campaigns against forced marriage, said it had received calls to its helpline from girls who had been married off over the phone.

The girls often don’t realize the phone call is a marriage ceremony until their family tells them afterwards.

“Some victims have contacted us and said: ‘I’ve been married over the phone because my family think that I’m shaming them.’,” said Karma Nirvana founder Jasvinder Sanghera.

“The quickest way to marry someone off is not going to be taking them out to Pakistan, India, or wherever, the quickest way to get them into marriage is going to be over the phone.”

Karma Nirvana helpline manager Priya Manota estimated thousands of British girls under the age of 18 are being forced into marriage every year.

Britain’s Forced Marriage Unit confirmed it had come across cases of forced marriage being conducted by Skype.

“Forced marriage is an abhorrent practice which is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the UK, regardless of how it takes place,” the Home Office said.

It said forced marriages by Skype could be treated as an offense under the legislation.

(Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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Britain’s Princess Beatrice Speaks Out About Online Bullying

Beatrice said mobile technology should be a force for good for girls in developed and developing countries

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Princess Beatrice
Britain's Princess Beatrice is pictured at the wedding of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle. VOA

Bullied herself online, Britain’s Princess Beatrice is determined to ensure other girls are equipped to deal with internet abuse and get the best from the digital world.

Beatrice — who as the eldest daughter of Prince Andrew and his former wife, the Duchess of York, is eighth in line to the British throne — said her bullying, about her weight and her appearance, were very public and could not be ignored.

But she said other girls faced this in private and needed to be encouraged to speak out and to know where to get support, which prompted her to get involved in campaigns against cyber bullying.

A recent study by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center found about 60 percent of U.S. teens had been bullied or harassed online, with girls more likely to be the targets of online rumor-spreading or nonconsensual explicit messages.

cyberbullying, beatrice
One in two parents in the current survey reported knowing a child in their community who had been cyberbullied, up from 45 per cent in 2011. Pixabay

“You’d like to say don’t pay attention to it … but the best advice is to talk about it,” Beatrice, 30, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation during an interview on Wednesday at the Web Summit, Europe’s largest annual technology conference.

“Being a young girl, but now being 30 and a woman working full time in technology, I feel very grateful for those experiences. But at that time it was very challenging.”

Beatrice, who works at the U.S.-based software company Afiniti, co-founded the Big Change Charitable Trust with a group of friends, including two of Richard Branson’s children, in 2010 to support young people who also grew up in the public eye.

Campaign

She also last year joined the anti-bullying campaign “Be Cool Be Nice” along with other celebrities such as Kendall Jenner and Cara Delevingne, which included a book.

princess beatrice
One of the most public attacks on the princess was at the 2011 wedding of her cousin Prince William when her fascinator sparked a barrage of media attention.

“There are lots of people who are ready to help and I want to make sure young people feel they have the places to go to talk about it,” said Beatrice, adding that teachers and parents also had a role to play.

Beatrice said her bullying was so public that she could not hide from it, but her mother, Sarah Ferguson, was a great source of support.

One of the most public attacks on the princess was at the 2011 wedding of her cousin Prince William when her fascinator sparked a barrage of media attention. A month later she auctioned the hat for charity for 81,000 pounds ($106,500).

Her mother, who divorced Prince Andrew in 1996, had to get used to unrelenting ribbing by Britain’s royal-obsessed media.

“She has been through a lot,” said Beatrice, whose younger sister, Eugenie, married at Windsor Castle last month.

Princess Eugenie, beatrice
Princess Eugenie wedding. Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank on the steps of St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle after their wedding.

“When you see role models who are continually put in very challenging situations and can support you … [then] some of the tools that I have had from her I would like to share.”

Beatrice said mobile technology should be a force for good for girls in developed and developing countries, presenting new opportunities in terms of education, careers and health.

Also Read: Google Launches New Cyber Security Unit For Play Store

“Social media and the pressures that these young people now face is a new phenomenon … and if I can do more to give young people the tools [to cope], that is my mission,” she said.

“I would say to young girls: You are not alone. Keep going.” (VOA)