Samira was born in India. Her mother was a house wife and her father worked on the little land they owned. Samira describes her childhood as a happy one with lots of laughter, love and good times.
When Samira was 16 years old and still in education, a family came to her village from the UK. The family had brought their 30 year old son with them and were looking for a wife for him. A village elder suggested they ask Samira’s father for her hand in marriage. The elder felt the two would make a good match (the two had never met). The elder spoke to Samira’s father and advised he could convince the groom’s family not to request dowry. This was a huge relief to Samira’s father as he had 5 daughters to marry.
The two families met and agreed upon no dowry and the two would be wed. That same evening Samira’s father told her she would be marrying the man from the UK. The wedding would take place at the end of the week. Samira was advised she was very lucky as the man and his family were not asking for a dowry. Samira did not want to marry an older man, she did not want to move to the UK, she wanted to continue with her education and she felt she was too young to get married. But she also knew if she shared these views they would fall upon deaf ears and she would be viewed as a disobedient daughter. So Samira remained silent. Her silence was taken as agreement to the wedding.
Samira was married and moved to the UK 6 months later. Her in-laws picked her up from the airport and she was taken to the family home. Her husband came to the family home a few weeks after her arrival. He stayed a few hours and left. This was to be Samira’s married life.
Samira remained with her in-laws cooking and cleaning. She rarely left the home and was totally isolated. In time she learnt that her husband had his own home and lived there with his partner and two children. His partner was not Indian and so not accepted by the family. Her husband had married her to keep his family happy and to keep the family’s honour and reputation in the community. Samira was paraded at extended family gatherings as proof of their son’s marriage.
Samira told her parents of her situation and asked to come back home. She was told to remain with her in-laws as they were her family now. She was told she would disgrace both families, if she left. Her father reminded her he had other daughters to marry and he would not be able to find respectable suitors, if she was divorced.
Samira remained with her in-laws for a further 4 years. She was the unpaid servant. The in-laws became convinced Samira would not leave and were aware of what her father had said to her. The mother in law became abusive towards Samira. Her abuse increased as time went by. One day her husband came to the house and raped her. He began doing this on a weekly basis. He told her he had to produce an Indian heir. Samira decided at this point before she fell pregnant she must leave. She lied to her mother in law and advised she was pregnant and needed to see a GP. She asked for help from the GP who helped her access a refuge.
Samira lived in the refuge for 6 months. In that time she went to college to learn English. She dressed how she wanted to. She started volunteering in a charity in the local community. She opened a bank account. For the first time since coming to the UK she had money for herself. She took up a hobby of painting and joined a local group. She made friends at the refuge who she is still in contact with now. She became an independent woman.