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Dhaka court orders parents to release captive -

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Dhaka court orders parents to release captive daughter

The World Today - Tuesday, 16 December , 2008 12:42:00

Reporter: Emma Alberici

ELEANOR HALL: A British doctor is on her way back to the UK after a court in Bangladesh ordered
that her parents release her.

The 33-year-old woman said she was being held captive by her parents because they wanted to force
her into an arranged marriage.

The UK has laws against forced marriage but British authorities say they've dealt with more than
1,000 similar cases this year.

Europe correspondent Emma Alberici has our report.

EMMA ALBERICI: Doctor Humayra Abedin had lived in Britain for six years. She'd trained to be a
general practitioner in London and was leading the life of an independent 33-year-old single woman.

In August she received a call from her family with word that her mother was sick in Bangladesh.

It was in fact a ruse to get her back home in preparation for an arranged marriage.

Shortly after she arrived in Dhaka her friends received text messages that read, "Please help me,
my life is in danger they have locked me in the house, my job is at stake they're making my life
hell".

Humayra Abedin's lawyer Ann Marie Hutchinson.

ANN MARIE HUTCHINSON: I think the background has been a history of her parents concern for her to
marry somebody of their choice. In the summer in August in fact she went on a visit there with a
return ticket because her mother was ill.

Once she got there she met with her family and was manhandled into the home and from that date
which was the 5th August she hadn't been seen publicly at all.

EMMA ALBERICI: Forced marriage is against the law in Bangladesh where the Judge went public to
emphasise this civil wrong that had occurred. It's also one of the first cases that's successfully
tested the UK's new Forced Marriages Act which became law just last month.

Humayra Abedin's friend Kate Marsden is an aid worker living in Dhaka and one of the first people
who raised the alarm.

KATE MARSDEN: We first heard from a friend that Humayra had returned to Dhaka because her mother
was ill and had not returned to England afterwards as expected.

So after that we were very concerned over the next few months and tried to contact her
unsuccessfully. We then actually visited the family home to see if she was there and neither
parents were at home at that time although we were invited into the house and it was obvious that
she wasn't there.

At that point we believed that she was being held somewhere else by her parents.

EMMA ALBERICI: In court Humayra Abedin's father collapsed and sobbed after hearing the ruling. But
despite the trauma of the past four months, Kate Marsden says her friend is not bitter.

KATE MARSDEN: She loves her parents, and in spite of all that's happened that has not changed.
They're still her parents.

EMMA ALBERICI: The British doctor is making her way back to the UK, where 1,300 similar cases have
been handled by the country's forced marriages unit this year. That's a 79 per cent increase on the
numbers of forced marriages reported last year. Most of the families involved come from Pakistan,
India and Bangladesh. Campaigners and the Government say forced marriage remains significantly
under-reported in Britain and the problem is more widespread than the figures suggest.

In London this is Emma Alberici for The World Today.