But instead, Sunny Angel was forced by her parents to marry a man she'd never met, who raped her on their wedding night while his mum stood at the door and told him what to do.

Sunny, who is now 40 and lives in Surrey, is one of an estimated 8,000 Brits forced into marriage every year – despite the fact it became a crime in 2014.

When she was 20, her parents matched her with a male stranger, Ajay*, who wrote her love letters, and promised to treat her "like a princess".

Shockingly, after their marriage Sunny realised her new husband had learning difficulties, was unable to read or write – and it had been his mum sending her the letters all along.

He raped her repeatedly while his mum stood outside the room and told him what to do.

However, Sunny, who now campaigns to raise awareness of forced marriage, doesn't blame her ex husband for the way she was treated, saying he was "exploited" and treated like an "object" by his family, who were using him to extort dowry money.

'He couldn't talk – it wasn't the same guy'

Sunny, who was raised a Hindu and whose parents had an arranged marriage, was 19 when her parents began planning for her to get married, something she says was "always on the cards" due to her heritage.

She was set up on three different Hindu websites, where she says they listed her "height, weight, bra size" as well as other descriptions of her personality.

"I had no say in it, they were just making stuff up," she recalls. "My parents were just looking to get rid of me.

Her parents saw a few men before they found Ajay through the site.

At first, Ajay, then 25, communicated with Sunny via love letters, and phone calls, where he promised he'd take care of her.

The first time she met him, a few weeks before the wedding, alarm bells started ringing.

"He was very panicked, he'd been sent on the train from Liverpool where he'd lived, and didn't sound like the person on the phone – it was clearly another person who'd been speaking to me.

"That man had said he'd loved me, but I didn't feel that from him when I met him."

However, despite her concerns, Sunny felt she had to go through with the wedding as it was already planned.

"I couldn't let my family down and bring dishonour on them," she says.

'He raped with him mum outside the door, telling him what to do'

Sunny says her wedding day, in May 1999, felt more "like a funeral".

It was held in front of 500 people at a Hindu temple, and she felt as if Ajay was distant throughout it.

"I was just going through the motions, I was just doing it for my parents," she says.

"Ajay's face was completely covered, which made me nervous as I was unable to make eye contact with him.

"Every time I asked for a moment alone with him, he just wouldn't answer me. I think it's because he didn't know what was going on.

"It was when he was in the room alone with me on our wedding night and he forced himself on me that he spoke to me for the first time."

In the letters she'd received from Ajay – which turned out to be from his mum – he'd promised that she didn't have to sleep with him on their wedding night due to her past experiences with sexual abuse.

But he raped her – with his mum outside telling him to take Sunny's clothes off, and to hit her if she resisted.

"I could see in his eyes he didn't want to rape me or hit me. He also looked scared and knew I was in pain.

"Essentially, my parents had just chosen my rapist, which was a horrible feeling."

After he raped her for the first time, he told his mum "I've done it now, can I have the chocolate?".

'His mum would watch porn with him so he could learn how to have sex'

Shockingly, Sunny says her mother-in-law would force her son to watch porn with her for hours, so he could learn how to have sex.

"She'd say, 'I want a grandson, you have to do this', then stand outside the door every time we had sex telling him what to do, it felt like he was under orders to do it.

"He didn't even want me to see him naked. He seemed really scared."

Sunny quickly realised her new husband had learning difficulties, and the "mental age of a child".

She says: "Ajay couldn't read or write.  He didn't have the mental capacity to know what was going on.

"He'd sit next to me, giggling, saying 'are you my wife' and asking if I loved him 'more than cake'.

"Ajay couldn't eat properly, he'd dribble, and when eating would regurgitate all his food and just spit it onto the plate.

"He'd spend hours lying across the floor playing with toy soldiers and wouldn't go to the toilet without his mum's permission.

"He was clearly vulnerable – if they'd wanted a carer, it would have been better, but his mum was obviously just using him to reproduce to make money out of him."

'I feared his mum would kill me'

Soon after the wedding, Ajay's mum began to also abuse Sunny in order to extort £10,000 and a Mercedes from her parents as a dowry.

As her parents couldn't afford it, Sunny was punished, forced to clean the house until 2am and had her food monitored.

Four months after the wedding, in September 1999, Sunny was banned from eating by Ajay's mum, causing her to collapse and be hospitalised.

Sunny recalls: "My parents came up to visit and realised what had been going on – when they met Ajay and he was unable to communicate with them properly they realised his mum had duped them.

"They took me back to their home, but I had to wait a year under UK law before I could get a divorce.

"Members of my community also avoided me, as divorce was frowned upon," she says.

Sunny has gone on to write a book about her experiences, Wings, which was published in July 2017. She's currently working on the sequel.

She now works with local police, judges, charities and abuse victims to raise awareness of forced marriages and honour abuse, and has won awards for her work.

While there are no figures to show how many people with learning disabilities undertake forced marriages, Sunny believes this could be very high.

In England, only one in 30 suspected forced marriages in England since the process was criminalised in 2014 is leading to a prosecution, meaning many cases are flying under the radar.


"Thousands of men and women can't stand up to their parents – and they're used as bargaining chips and objects for money or honour. Marriage should be between two people who are so in love with each other – but with a forced marriage you don't have this connection so many British people take for granted," she says.

"Now, my justice is helping police and social services realise forced marriages are not culture, they're a crime, and trying to stop other people going through what I went through."

Sunny's book, Wings, is available to buy here for £8.99, Red Admiral Press

*names have been changed

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