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Horrifying ordeal of Irish woman forced into marriage abroad

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‘Amala’ wants better support for women in such situations

‘Amala’ wants better support for women in such situations

‘Amala’ wants better support for women in such situations

An Irish citizen dramatically escaped a forced marriage after being taken from Dublin to Bangladesh in the first known case of its kind in the State.

The 21-year-old woman endured emotional abuse and sexual violence at the hands of her "husband" during the two-month ordeal.

In an exclusive interview with the Herald, Amala - not her real name - detailed how she managed to make her way back to Ireland through an international rescue mission involving the Irish and British governments.

The high-risk escape involved an elaborate ruse, a bulletproof car, background work at two different embassies and online detective work by Amala's Irish boyfriend.

Amala is now calling on the State to offer better support for other women who may be in similar situations. She believes there are other unknown cases of forced marriage happening in Ireland today.

When Amala was 20, she was taken to Bangladesh by her family, who claimed they were visiting her sick grandmother.

When she arrived, her passport and phone were taken off her and she was pressured into a marriage by her family.

Amala did not speak the same language as her "husband" and was pressured into sex by both the man and her own family.

"I didn't let him rape me for as long as I could," she said.

"It was horrifying. I remember having almost an out-of-body experience. I wasn't even sobbing or anything, there were just tears as I lay there. I felt totally numb.

"This happened a lot, very frequently. Every day."

Screaming

Shortly afterwards, her parents went back to Ireland and left her alone in Bangladesh with no passport.

Amala said she started screaming when she realised what had happened.

"I thought, 'This is it. I'm going to be here forever'. I remember being pretty suicidal at that time as well," she said.

Amala found ways to contact her boyfriend back in Ireland.

He started to do research on forced marriages, and found out about the UK government's Forced Marriage Unit. Ireland does not have its own such unit.

The British government contacted the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and alerted it to Amala's case.

British officials came up with a ruse to get Amala safely on her own in Bangladesh, before she was taken to a secure building.

She was covered and escorted out of the back of the building before being put in a bulletproof car to take her to the airport.

When she landed, she was met by a garda and taken to a women's refuge.

Amala said there needs to be better understanding of, and State support for, forced marriage survivors in Ireland.

"These things happen a lot more because of tradition and culture, rather than religion," she said.

"Religion does play a role, but a big part of this is just tradition."