Has tradition gone too far? What tradition, the tradition of forced marriages. It is an unpleasant tradition of forced marriages, which still sadly, exists in this modern world. This form of pairing, affects mainly the young British Asian girls/women in the UK. Not only does this happen here, but also in many parts of the world due to tradition that goes back to centuries. The practice of forced marriage was very common amongst the upper classes in Europe until the 1900s, but is still a growing problem around the world. Forced marriages can often be confused with arranged marriages. Arranged marriages differ from forced marriage, as an arranged marriage would be arranged by someone other than the couple getting wedded. A forced marriage is a marriage in which one is married without his or her consent, or against his or her will. This tradition is still practiced in South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In most but not all forced marriages, it is the female (rather than the male) who is the involuntary spouse. Men and women are still not completely equal in this world, and this upsets me knowing that I am growing up in an unbalanced society where women are constantly being prejudiced against men, which is why I think forced marriages should go into Room 101.
And what is the government actually doing to stop or help young girls being forced into marrying strangers or in some cases their own first cousins? Action must be taken now.
The tradition of arranged marriage is central to the social systems of the community, and in particular to the system of honour. Marriages negotiated by community elders view the union as bringing together two families, rather than two individuals. Forced marriages are generally made because of family pride and the wishes of the parents. In many circumstances, the daughter must do everything the father tells her to do. The parents would constantly imprint the idea that the family’s social standing or image is worsening. This manipulation causes the child to feel that they cannot let the family down, as they fear getting rejected by them. In worst cases, the child or woman would become a victim to mental, physical or sexual abuse in order to keep quiet about the arrangement of marriage. In some instances victims have even been murdered. Many cases involve the person thinking that they are going on a holiday to their home country, but in fact it won’t be a holiday at all. They are left abandoned by people who they thought they could trust. They end up facing life with a stranger, living there in distress, misery and hell for the rest of their lives. Because of this, many organizations have been introduced to the victims of forced marriages. It is quite rare that a young woman who has been forced to marry has escaped the “marriage”, and had returned back home. Because of their experience, they have the urge to want to help the hundreds of girls facing forced marriages. These organizations help, advise and comfort those who are subjected to the forced marriages which should be recognized as a “crime”. Public awareness had started to become more acknowledged, as there are things such as warning signs which start to follow on a forced marriage, suspicions about parents or suspicions on going on these ‘so-called’ holidays. But I think the Government needs to tighten in order to prevent this from happening because not much is known about this issue. It is a crime against humanity.
We all know how religion and old traditions oppresses women in the most degrading and the most outrageous forms. Don’t you think it is about time to do something to ensure a women’s well being? Don’t you think it is about time to “CRIMINALISE” any forced marriages? We have paid respect to ancient tradition for so long and ignored the rights of the children and women.
There is always an argument on any subject. One should not be biased, but in some circumstances, the other side is really not needed. This topic is one of those, as the pros of forced marriage are absolutely, totally unnecessary. Who and for what reason would someone want to agree with this mortifying way of marriage? Well people may be for forced marriages, in order to save their family reputation as they do not want to be humiliated in their community. Following the tradition of forced marriage is the route they take, taking in no concern of their children. Where force is used in marriage, it is generally justified through an appeal to traditional values - the authority and wisdom of parents, the children’s duty of obedience, the honour of the family, respecting the tradition. Few people openly support force in marriage. When it happens, the perpetrators do not say, or for the most part even believe, that they are forcing their children into an unpleasant situation. They do not take account in what they are putting their children through. They say, and usually believe that their greater age, wisdom and experience give them a better understanding of their children’s long term welfare. Parents who push children into forced marriages are often unaware of the family law of this country. They believe they are doing the right thing by choosing the most suitable brides or grooms for their children. Some may have agreements with other families abroad; these may include having agreeing or promising to have the children married while before they are born, or having the two children married in order to bring the spouse into the UK, or just to strengthen the families position in the community. Parents who force their children to marry often justify their behaviour as protecting their children, building stronger families and preserving cultural or religious traditions. They do not see anything wrong in their actions. Other cultures view forced marriage as the only valid form of marriage as they may not recognize Western ideas of love and romance. Refusal to go through with a forced marriage has, in the past, been linked to so-called ‘honour crimes’. ‘Honour crimes’ include abduction, imprisonment, physical and emotional abuse, forced abortions and rape, as well as murder. This is an example of such ‘honour crimes’ linked with family tradition. This case involved Samaira Aziz, whose brother and young cousin were given life sentences for her murder. The killing of the bright 25-year old graduate happened in the family home in Southall, West London, when her family decided she had to pay for having an affair with a Muslim man, not of her family’s choosing.
As her brother had been led away by police after killing Samaira, he had said: “There had been a problem with my sister. She does not wish to have an arranged marriage. We only allow marriage within the family. My sister wanted to run away from the house and was stopped.” The whole family witnessed the event, and Samaira’s father had fled to Pakistan, where there is no extradition treaty, to avoid justice. Her mother had stood by and watched as Samaira was stabbed and then pulled back into the house by her hair as she tried to flee the house. Samaira was stabbed eighteen times, and her throat was cut three times. The two children of Azhar Nazir, her 29-year old brother, were so close to the scene of the killing that they were spattered with blood. The children were aged two and four. In many cultures, the women are often looked down on than the males. A Kurdish girl named Derya had received the order to kill herself from her uncle, via a SMS text message on her cell phone. The message read: “You have blackened our name. Kill yourself and clean our shame or we will kill you first.” She had been seeing a boy from her school and was caught out by her family. She fled from her family, and she said, “In my village and in my father’s tribe, boys are in the sky while girls are treated as if they are under the earth.”
The other side of the argument can go on forever as there are endless reasons why which forced marriages should go in Room 101. Forced marriage is not a religious issue; every major faith condemns it and freely given consent is a condition of Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh marriages. Opposing “tradition”, in Islam, the Prophet Muhammad said: “A previously married woman shall not be married without being consulted and a virgin shall not be married without her consent.” This statement clearly establishes the principle of the female’s right to choose a marriage partner. Neither the legal guardian nor anyone else can force a female (or male) to marry against his or hers wishes, since Islam emphatically disallows forced marriages. Why people still force their children to marry out of their will, even though it is against their religion is the question. Western society and the United Nations view forced marriage as a form of human rights abuse, since it violates the principle of the freedom and independence of individuals. It prevents the person from finishing their education, having a social life (socializing, dating) and having a happy life. Why should someone not have the right to choose their husband or wife whom they will spend the rest of their life with? As the parent constantly tells the child that it is up to them to keep the family’s name honourable, once they are married, they feel they have to stay married as they cannot let down the family. If they return home, their parents would usually disown them, so this consequence influences them to stay married even though they are unhappy. Forced marriage can have a serious impact on a person, as their mentality changes due to depression and unhappiness can lead to health problems. The emotional abuse and threatening behaviour coming from the family often leads to excessive anxiety, isolation, eating disorders, running away, self-harm or even suicide. When someone has been forced into a marriage and is now living abroad, the in-laws may do everything in their power to prevent the wife or husband running away or contacting their friends or family. This can involve physical and sexual abuse, sometimes imprisonment. The in-laws may even keep the passport of the person so that if they do try to run away, they won’t be able to get very far.
This case study is a about a woman named Sameem Ali was forced into a marriage at thirteen years of age. Sameem had been abandoned by her parents and so she grew up in a children’s home from the age of six months. When she was seven; she was told that her family wanted her back, she couldn’t wait. However she returned to a dirty house where she was subjected to endless chores. She lived with her brothers and sisters. Apart from her sister Mena, nobody in the family ever spoke to Sameem unless to bark commands. She suffered abuse from her mother who would punch her back and push her on the kitchen floor. Her mother also tried to cure Sameem of her stutter, as she pinned her to the floor and cut the skin under her tongue with a razor blade. Her mother’s abuse drove Sameem to unhappiness which made her perform self harm. When her mother told Sameem about a trip to Pakistan, she was excited as she was to visit Pakistan for the first time, only to discover she wasn’t there for a holiday. Instead Sameem was taken to an isolated village and forced to marry a man in his late twenties called Afzal. From the wedding night on, he raped her. Aged just thirteen, he would rape her repeatedly. Two months later, when she was fourteen she fell pregnant, just as her mother had intended. Even better, with a son. Like many forced brides, Sameem had cut herself and taken an overdose to escape her “marriage”, but now she was a mother, she knew she had to live for her son’s sake. When she was seventeen, she escaped from the family to Glasgow. The family was putting pressure on Sameem to go to Pakistan to bring back her son Afzal. When she refused, her brother Manz had threatened her, ‘You are going to Pakistan, even if it is in a body bag.’ It was then that a family friend, Osghar Ali, came to stay. She felt she could confide in him. Osghar came from a much more liberal family and was horrified by what she told him. At the end of 1987, Osghar rescued Sameem and Azmier and took them to Manchester. He had thought he could provide for her and keep her safe, but she wasn’t safe. A few months later three men were arrested after a random police stop on the outskirts of Manchester. In their van were knives, baseball bats and other weapons. Manz had hired them to bring Azmier back and amazingly, Sameem, Osghar and Azmier had moved to a new address that very morning; the kidnappers had only their old address. Sameem was called to give evidence against her brother. As she saw her mother, she did not want to make any eye-contact as she did not want to show her mother of how scared she was. Manz was sentenced to four years for attempted kidnapping. She became Osghar’s wife, whom she had her second child with. He was the first person to show her affection and understanding since her days in the children’s home. It was a love that encouraged her to get a qualification in tourism - she had had no formal education since the age of 12 - and a job at Manchester Airport. Then in 2007 she decided to stand for election to Manchester City Council, and won the biggest ever majority in her ward. Her brothers and sisters still live in Glasgow. They had come to visit her in hospital as she was having a brain tumour removed. But why was Sameem the only one of her siblings to be abused and forced into marriage? She began researching, finally, discovering the truth that her uncle in Pakistan had lost a lot of money in gambling and he had promised his creditor a nice English-Pakistani girl as a way to avoid repaying the debt. Her mother wanted to help her brother more than to look after Sameem. Apart from Manz, Sameem still has some contact with her siblings, all of whom are married and have children. Although her sisters still believe that you cannot pick your own husband. Her eldest son has chosen his own bride two years older than him, Sarah who Sameem is very delighted and excited about. Excited about Sarah’s choice to have both English and Asian wedding which will be extremely colourful and beautiful. So different from her first “marriage” into a world where she did not belong. She has transformed her terrifying ordeal into a book called Belonging, in which she describes her traumatic life as a victim of forced marriage. This case is a case which is quite unique and rare as she had the chance to escape, and was able to be saved by her later husband, Osghar. Not many victims are able to have the same chance of being saved, which is why something must be done to prevent forced marriages from taking place.
This short case study is about a girl who was forced in a marriage which later resulted in attempted suicide. A girl was forced by her parents to marry her cousin from their village back home. When they first told her about the idea she made it clear that this was not what she wanted, but they insisted that she do as she was told. She did not feel she could go against her parents’ wishes as she did not want to hurt them, despite her friends urging her to take a stand. She married her cousin but was desperately unhappy and after two months she attempted suicide. Fortunately a friend found her in time and she was unsuccessful. She remains with her husband, although he treats her badly. She suffers from depression and attends an Asian women’s support group following a referral from her GP. She says she cannot leave her husband as it would bring shame on her family and hurt her parents. Her parents’ constant pressure to not let them down made it very difficult for her to rebel against the idea of letting them down.
Some cases include girls contacting their embassy or high commissions office, which then attempts to rescue the girl and bring them back home. Sometimes it may be difficult as people in the village may hear upon this and pass the message on to the family which then “hide” the girl. Some may keep the passport to prevent the girl from going back home. The girl then has a choice to make. To either, return home where she can start a new life but she will be rejected from her family, or to be “honourable” to her parents by returning back to the marriage. This is often an incredibly hard decision to make which can affect the person emotionally. These cases are truly shocking and mortifying, knowing that these women and girls have to go through such experiences makes me feel absolutely sick. Currently, some two hundred cases of forced marriage are reported to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office each year. Many others go unreported. Reading this really upsets me, which strengthens my views on this topic. I would really want to see this sort of thing to stop, don’t you?
The internet and media are congested with views of forced marriages. Certainly all would be against the idea, but is this enough to change the law? Many documentaries and foundations have been made to reflect upon the hidden problem in order to raise awareness.
Ziauddin Sardar is a writer, broadcaster, and a British-Pakistani and also a neighbour of mine. He appeared in a recent broadcast (1st December 2008) of a BBC 2 documentary called This World: Forced Marriages. I wanted to know about his views on forced marriages so I decided to interview him. He told me that; “The idea is that the parents want to keep the families together. So they think the best thing for them is to marry their children to somebody in the same clan, that will keep the family and clan together. And what happens is that when the girl refuses to engage in this activity, they usually runaway so instead of the family being together, the family actually breaks up”. I then asked him, what is the solution and how is this going to stop? He responded by saying; “You need to declare forced marriages as a criminal activity, we have to criminalize it. There is no other option. We have to tell these people who engage in this practice, that this practice has no place in contemporary Britain, that it is in fact a criminal act. You are violating somebody’s human rights, in some case you may be kidnapping them, and then of course you are forcing them into a marriage.”
Author and actor Meera Syal said: “We want the older generations to know that we respect their culture, tradition and we understand that arranged marriages have a place in society. But there is a vast difference between an arranged and a forced marriage... consent.” Meera Syal is a supporter of the Forced Marriage Unit set up in 2000. Their slogan reads, “You have the right to choose...use it.”
Damian Green is a Conservative home affairs spokesman who said, “Forced marriages are a form of domestic violence that cannot be justified on religious or cultural grounds”.
Crown Prosecution Service of West London sector director Nazir Afzal says, “Forced marriage is the beginning of the suffering, a wife will be repeatedly raped, assaulted and suffer a lifetime of abuse”.
There are many views on forced marriages but why would someone back the idea of forced marriages? The elder generation claims that it is the right thing to do as their parents had done the same. As long as the child lives under their roof they will do what they say. But what link is this with religion? There is no link, as it is against religious belief in many religions. People who engage in this act of forced marriage are usually more concerned putting culture/tradition ahead of religion. As long as the family has a good name, they are not prepared to pay the price of their children bringing shame to the family.
The Government has a role to play in all of this. But what have they done so far, and what are they prepared to do to prevent forced marriages from undergoing? The Government’s forced marriage unit helps around 300 people a year who are forced into a marriage against their will here in the UK or abroad. Around 15% of the people they help are male. The Foreign Office originally set up the Forced Marriage Unit in 2000. It was re-launched in January last year as a joint venture with the Home Office with an annual budget of £300,000. At present, forced marriage is not a specific criminal offence in England and Wales, in the same way that domestic violence is not a specific criminal offence. According to The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act (2007), a consultation paper by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Home Office called Forced Marriage: A Wrong not a Right, seeking views on whether there should be a specific criminal offence of forced marriage. The majority of respondents felt that the disadvantages of creating new criminal legislation would outweigh the advantages and the Government announced it would pursue civil, rather than criminal, legislation. So at present anyone found guilty of forcing someone into marriage can be prosecuted for kidnap, false imprisonment or rape, which are the criminal acts connected to forced marriage. Has anything changed? Has the number of people engaging in forced marriages changed? I feel the message is not being put across to those families who do not understand the full consequences of their actions. They do not realise that it is inhumane to force someone into a marriage in which they will have to live in for the rest of their lives.
I think the government should really reconsider making forced marriages illegal. Making it illegal would entitle someone for example a doctor, youth worker, or even a friend eligible, to report the perpetrator to the police after noticing signs of someone becoming a victim.
In conclusion, the definition of forced marriages speaks for itself. It has the opposite meaning to an arranged marriage, as one involves the future spouses giving their full consent, while the other simply does not, and this is when forced marriage takes place. In its many cases, young adults and even children have been taken away by their parents and literally dumped with estranged men, sometimes cousins, along with their family who can be extremely violent towards the victims. For many of these victims, there is no way out as once they are married, an automatic ultimatum has been created for them. To either runaway back to their home and resume their education, but being disowned by their family, or to resume married life to protect and honour your family. Life for the victim can be extremely difficult as emotional pressure would have changed their mentality for the worst, causing them to runaway, perform self harm or to even commit suicide. If this is the outcome for some victims, why isn’t anything being done? Why are we as a community, society, letting this happen right under our noses? It could be happening right now, and we could do something to prevent it from worsening, but it isn’t that easy. People must be more aware of this problem, not only victims but the parents who engage in it. They need to realise that it is a false practice which has no humane meaning, no respect, and it certainly does not bring honour only shame. Although people claim that they had to also go through the same thing, did they not think there was anything wrong with it, why would they want to enforce the same tradition on to their children? Do they think it would make their children happy? Or are they only doing this to make themselves happy? Over the years, society has changed, certainly in the British Asian community, but people are undetermined to move on from their traditions of the past. They must be able to see sense that it is utterly wrong to force someone into a marriage that they don’t wish to be apart of. The youth of Asian Britain know that it is wrong and may think it is somewhat “disgusting” to marry your own cousin. They are aware of the problem, but what if their parents are traditional and expect the same expectations their parents had? We need to get through to them, tell them that a child is precious, and no matter if it is a boy or a girl you should not give them away to a life of unhappiness. Is this what they really want? If I were to ask a traditional parent, not even to start with the subject of forced marriage. If I were to ask, ‘Would you want to see your son/daughter happy?’ I would expect them to say yes, but then why would you ruin their lives by forcing them into a marriage against their will? Is that making them happy? It’s a crime, that’s what it is. I believe actions need to be taken immediately to tackle the main problem, which are the parents who do it all. If they can change, the next generation can change. After all, isn’t life all about the next generation? Shouldn’t we all do that is in our power to make change for the better for their lives ahead? Because right now and forever, the children will be the future. A change needs to be made…now.