Pakistani-American child bride who was married off to 26-year-old cousin at AGE 13 reveals how he beat and raped her, then used her to get a green card – as she inspires new law banning underage marriage in New York
- Naima Amin, a dual Pakistani-American citizen, learned she was engaged to her much-older cousin at age eight
- Her parents flew her to Pakistan for a religious ceremony to her first cousin when she was just 13
- They submitted paperwork to get her new husband an American spousal visa, which was approved by the US government
- At 15, she was taken back to Pakistan to live with her husband, who raped her, beat her, and hid her passport
- She managed to get in touch with a social worker in Child Protective Services in New York who got her back to the US
- Amin has since started her own foundation to help victims of child marriages and advocate for better laws, like one signed in New York last month
- Child marriage is still legal in some form in 44 states
A former child bride who was married off to a 26-year-old cousin when she was just 13 has opened up about the horrific experiences she endured as a result of the forced union – after inspiring a new law that bans underage marriage in New York.
In one of his last acts as Governor of New York last month, Andrew Cuomo signed Naila’s Law, which bans marriage in the state for anyone under the age of 18.
The law, which went into effect on Saturday, is named after 31-year-old US citizen Naila Amin, who, at age 13, was taken from her home in Queens and flown to Pakistan, where she was married off to her first cousin, who beat and raped her.
Amin has spent years advocating against child marriage, which is still legal in some form in 44 states.
‘People need to get that out of their head that this is a Muslim issue because it’s not. It’s American,’ Amin told NBC News.
Progress: A new law in New York bans marriage under any condition for anyone under age 18; Naila’s Law was named after former child bride Naima Amin
Just a baby: At 13, Naila — a dual US and Pakistan citizen — was taken to Pakistan for a religious marriage ceremony to her 26-year-old cousin
After returning to the US, her father submitted paperwork to get her new husband an American spousal visa. Shockingly, this raised no red flags in the federal government
Amin, a dual citizen of the US and Pakistan, emigrated to the US at age four and settled with her family in Queens, New York.
She knew she would be a child bride against her wishes from an early age.
‘I had been promised to my cousin when I was 8 years old, so I was aware that eventually I would have to marry him,’ she told the AHA Foundation. ‘No one ever asked me if this is what I wanted.’
When she was 13, Amin spent most of the year she should have been in eight grade halfway around the world in Pakistan.
While she was there, she took part in a Nikah, a religious Islamic wedding ceremony done without a marriage license. She was spiritually, if not yet legally, married to her 26-year-old cousin Tariq.
Right away, her father started putting through paperwork to get Tariq an American spousal visa, a path to US citizenship.
‘I was just a green card to them,’ Amin said.
Amin assumed that someone who saw the paperwork in the US would notice she was so young and put a stop to it — but no one did.
‘I was a child. I want to know: Why weren’t any red flags raised? Whoever was processing this application, they don’t look at it? They don’t think?’ she asked.
The legal age for marriage with parental consent in New York at the time was 14.
Amin was still an American high schooler in the New York City suburbs at the time, and despite her parents’ plans, she began dating a boy her age at school named Eddie.
‘He was really nice. He was like my first love, he took care of me,’ she told Brown Girl Magazine.
When her parents found out, they beat her, cuffing her by the ankles in the house. She had to escape through a window, and her boyfriend took her to a social worker with Child Protective Services, who ultimately put into foster care.
It wasn’t her first experience with CPS. They’d also removed her from her parents’ home when she was 10, after they beat her for hanging out with a boy.
In fact, she’d been in and out of her parents’ house for years.
But despite the horrors at home, Amin said she was ‘lost and confused while bouncing from group home to group home’ and missed the stability of living with her parents — so she eventually ran away, back to her mother and father.
Back on US soil: In Pakistan, she was able to get in touch with her old social worker, who safely got her home
It wasn’t long after that, during her freshman year of high school, that a then 15-year-old Amin was taken to Pakistan to be with her then 28-year-old husband and consummate the marriage ceremony performed two years earlier and legalized when she was 14.
‘It took something from me I would never get back. My childhood, my innocence was taken from me, my body and soul,’ she said
‘When I was taken to Pakistan, I did not initially realize that I was in danger of being forced to stay there,’ she recalled.
‘Before I knew it, I was trapped and it was too late… I was forced to go live with my rapist, who was the cousin I was promised to.’
She described the wedding as a ‘farewell to the old me, almost like a funeral for 15-year-old Naila.’
‘I remember the day of my marriage as the day where a part of myself died in which I will never be able to get back,’ she told The Statesman.
She spent five months in Pakistan, where her new husband raped her and beat her. Twice she tried to escape, but she’d be caught and confined to the house, where her husband confiscated her phone, her passport, and her music.
‘It took something from me I would never get back. My childhood, my innocence was taken from me, my body and soul,’ she said.
Helping out: Amin spent years in therapy, and in her mid-20s turned to activism to help other girls escape and recover from child marriages
Activism: In 2016, she founded the The Naila Amin Foundation, which is working to eradicate child marriage
Fortunately, Amin did have one relative on her side: a sympathetic uncle who helped her get in touch with the social worker she saw during her time in foster care in the US.
‘I escaped with help from the U.S. State Department, and my mother was arrested upon arrival at JFK for kidnapping,’ she recalled.
‘Without the help that was available to me because of my prior circumstances as a foster child, I would have had an extremely difficult time returning to the United States on my own. That was my ticket out.’
Amin spent years in therapy, and in her mid-20s turned to activism to help other girls escape and recover from child marriages.
In 2016, she founded the The Naila Amin Foundation, which is working to eradicate child marriage.
In addition to changing laws, she wants to give young women a new home, help them get an education or learn a skill, and get them therapy.
She’s had some success already. In 2008, she worked to get New Jersey to raise its minimum age for marriage — with or without parental consent — to 18. It was only the second state to do so.
And this summer, New York followed suit, bringing the age up from 17 to 18.
In 2008, she worked to get New Jersey to raise its minimum age for marriage to 18. It was only the second state to do so (pictured with NJ Governor Phil Murphy)
Finally! She is now celebrating that a similar law was signed in New York
‘I know that my two-and-a-half years of work was really worth it. This is one of the proudest moments of my life,’ she said.
‘I emailed every Assembly member and every senator in New York state with my story and said please support this bill,’ she went on. ‘I think it was about 150 Assembly members and it took me days, but I did it. We can’t let this happen to our children anymore.’
She said she was thrilled when Cuomo signed the bill into law, adding that the state ‘did not give up on protecting me,’ even when, she says, the US did.
‘My involvement at the federal level is a vastly different story. They failed me. Every day, I wonder who thought approving my spousal petition was a good idea,’ she said.
‘Who thought a 14-year-old should marry a 27-year-old? That is not right, they could have protected me before I was taken abroad. It is absolutely ridiculous, and we need to make a change now.’
Now, 44 states still allow minors to marry, at least under certain conditions.
Only New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island have banned minors from marrying outright.
Now, 44 states still allow minors to marry, at least under certain conditions
‘I was alone when I faced my marriage,’ Amin said. ‘I want to be there for other girls’
Most states require people to be at least 18 to marry without parental consent, but allow minors age 16 or 17 to marry with parental consent.
With parental consent and a judge’s approval, children can marry at 14 in Alaska and Vermont, 15 in Hawaii and Kansas, and 12 for females and 14 for males in Massachusetts.
In Mississippi, its 15 for females and 17 for males with parental consent.
California, Wyoming, West Virginia, and Oklahoma have no minimum marriage age with parental consent and judicial approval.
While the laws may seem like remnants of a different time, child marriage does in fact exist: From 2000 to 2018, almost 300,000 minors were legally married in the US. About 40 children get married in the US every day.
‘I was alone when I faced my marriage,’ Amin told the New York Times. ‘I want to be there for other girls.’
Source: Read Full Article