Scotland

Bounty hunters found me but parents didn't want blood on their hands

Image caption Mariam's problems were sparked by talking to male students in her university canteen

Bounty hunters are being hired by families to trace the victims of forced marriages when they flee.

Here, victim Mariam tells how a gang found her in Scotland but didn't kill her because her family didn't want blood on their hands.

Mariam says the problems began with her family because she was seen talking to male students in the university canteen.

That night her parents told her the only way to clear their honour was for her to marry in Pakistan.

She was told she could not return to university. She was just 17.

She ran away the next day but believes they used bounty hunters to track her down.

'Bad idea'

"I did ask them why did someone not come out to kill me why not (fully) use a bounty hunter.

"It was just because they didn't want blood on their hands. That's what I was told. Not because they loved me."

She says the fear of what they would do meant she went through with the wedding in Pakistan.

Image caption Many women in forced marriages do not find the strength to run away

"There was nowhere to go," she said." No one to help. I feared they might kill me."

Finally, back in Scotland, she was able to save up and escape.

She fears that criminalising forced marriage will dissuade victims from coming forward.

"There is just too much at stake," she said. "It's a bad idea. It's going to cause conflict.

Dirty work

"They know their life is not worth that risk. It makes you think - will that make the job of bounty hunters better?

"They might have more people approaching them to do their dirty work for them. Parents don't want to be criminalised.

"It's not just the physical abuse but the emotional and psychological."

Mariam is not her real name. She still cannot be fully identified because she fears the actions her family might take.

But now she has a new life and a new family and she is studying again.

She said: "I was lucky. I've got the life I wanted now. But I had to fight.

"I've been lucky but others have not been."

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