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Arranged 'child bride' marriages reveals schoolgirl truancy

PUBLISHED: 18:14 12 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:07 05 October 2010

FEARS were raised this week that children as young as 14 are being taken out of schools in East London to become 'child brides' in forced marriages abroad. Tower Hamlets was named in a Government report as having some of the highest numbers of forced marriages in Britain

By Gemma Collins

FEARS were raised this week that children as young as 14 are being taken out of schools in East London to become 'child brides' in forced marriages abroad.

Tower Hamlets was named in a Government report as having some of the highest numbers of forced marriages in Britain.

Whitehall's Forced Marriage Unit identified the East End as "high risk" because of the increasing number of Bangladeshi girls forced into arranged marriages.

It believes there is an increasing number of Bangladeshi girls who are being forced into arranged marriages that take place in parents' mother country and that these arranged marriages are behind many children being off school for at least two weeks without any explanation.

The report queries 16 girls absent from school in Tower Hamlets at present.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families revealed that 2,000 children had gone missing from schools in 14 areas where there were high levels of forced marriages, including the East End.

The figures were released to MPs by Children's Minister Kevin Brennan as part of an inquiry into forced marriage and domestic violence.

Tower Hamlets council's official in charge of hate crime, Natalie Ker Watson, confirmed there is a problem with forced marriages. Her staff have helped victims as young as 14.

The girls in many cases are sent to Bangladesh for a holiday, she says, after being told they are going for a wedding... which turns out to be their own.

"Forced marriage is a form of domestic violence," she told the Advertiser.

"The victims may be forced into marriage through the use of physical and psychological abuse.

"We are here to support those who are subject to an abuse of marriage rights."

The authority was unable to give exact figures for the number of missing children on their schools rolls.

But the Town Hall said its schools have demonstrated awareness of the 'warning signs' that may appear and is advising them and residents to contact the authority if they have concerns for any children.

gemma.collins@archant.co.uk

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