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    Documentary on Forced Marriage Unit

    by Rumbold on 1st December, 2008 at 1:14 pm    

    Tonight, BBC2, 7:00pm.

    Leon updates: Details here:

    International investigative documentary series. Saira Khan investigates the dramatic stories of British Asians taken to Pakistan by their parents and forced to marry against their will.

    With exclusive access to the Government’s Forced Marriages Unit and its office in Islamabad, the programme follows the dramatic rescues of young women in remote rural communities in Pakistan.

      |     |   Add to del.icio.us   |   Share on Facebook   |   Filed in: Cultural Relativism

    22 Comments below   |  

    1. shariq — on 1st December, 2008 at 1:48 pm  

      Is the same Saira Khan from the Apprentice? If so, I’m mildly disappointed they couldn’t find someone else to present it. On the whole it sounds like a worthwhile program so the choice of presenter is a secondary issue.

    2. Muhamad — on 1st December, 2008 at 1:52 pm  

      Shariq, what’s your problem with her having been on The Apprentice?

    3. Jai — on 1st December, 2008 at 1:58 pm  

      Yeah it is the same Saira Khan. I thought she was great when presenting that documentary about her trip to Pakistan a little while back. Definitely showed a very humane and emotional side to her too.

    4. Leon — on 1st December, 2008 at 2:36 pm  

      She’s a good presenter, has been involved in some good political campaigns, but I find her voice irritating!

    5. Nesrine — on 1st December, 2008 at 3:34 pm  

      Oh no please not Saira, my ears!

    6. Leon — on 1st December, 2008 at 3:41 pm  

      Heh heh yeah tis true.

    7. Amrit — on 1st December, 2008 at 5:08 pm  

      D’oh! Hopefully I can catch this on the IPlayer. I miss the TV… I wouldn’t buy one for myself, but having a family set is good :-D .

    8. Paul Moloney — on 1st December, 2008 at 8:10 pm  

      Just curious; have they estimated what proportion of forced marriage cases in the UK are related to Pakistan? That is, is this a cultural rather than religious issue?


    9. Andrew — on 2nd December, 2008 at 3:33 am  

      It would be be better if these types of programme look at India as well as Pakistan. Indian Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs do this too. The impression was given that forced marriage is purely a Pakistani Muslim problem, when of course it isn’t.

    10. Sunny — on 2nd December, 2008 at 4:35 am  

      lol @ nesrine

    11. Nesrine — on 2nd December, 2008 at 6:00 pm  


      Hat tip to Rumbold and Leon.

    12. Rumbold — on 2nd December, 2008 at 7:18 pm  

      Thanks Nesrine.

      While the documentary was a good one, it would have been nice if it had given more background to the issue of forced marriage. For those of us who knew a lot about it already, it was excellent, but I am not sure that the average viewer would have fully grasped the nature of the problem (such as the problems of criminalising focred marriage, etc.).

    13. fugstar — on 2nd December, 2008 at 7:39 pm  

      lol @ the irony of Sunny laughing with Nesrine.

    14. Nesrine — on 3rd December, 2008 at 9:32 am  

      True Rumbold, probably more time spent in the UK tackling the provenance of the issues and laws would have been useful.

      My ears still hurt though.

    15. sonia — on 3rd December, 2008 at 1:03 pm  

      amrit -thank god for iplayer. 5 days left to go to be able to watch it online!

      nesrine - great article. its so easily and too often overlooked that the immense difficulty of these situations is the being between the ‘devil and the deep blue sea’ for the girls. stay in the marriage, or deal with the repercussions for leaving the marriage.

      there are no easy choices, certainly there are extreme consequences of taking either road. if they escape (like leaving MI5 or sth, hah ive been watching spooks) that’s it - no connection to the ‘old life’ for them. having the belief that is worth doing that and that life will carry on - is extremely difficult and requires a lot of self-belief and self-value, which girls are certainly not encouraged to feel, not for themselves anyway, but more of their value to their family.

      little suprise there are so many suicides. that is consistently what we see the road many women in this situation take.

      this is what we have gone on and on about every time we have talked about forced marriage here over the last year or so -some of which got quite heated. te social and emotional issues. why just telling women what rights they have and how they can send their parents to prison isn’t going to make the problem go away, (though it is a very important step of course) the social barriers to take-up of one’s legal rights is the big issue.

      until the huge complicating factor of the underlying emotional blackmail issue is recognised for what it is, nothing is going to change magically for those women/girls who find themselves in this situation.

      of course the legal aspect is a very important corollary issue, but simply that. as nesrine puts it, it is the necessary legal framework, but the ’social’ framework is what is really significant for these girls.
      after all, that’s why so many forced marriages don’t actually need to involve threat of violence, because of the threat of ostracisation.

      unless and until ‘defiance’ comes to seen to be more acceptable, and not ‘family-destroying’ than it is now in these contexts, the problem will continue. of course people don’t want to deal with this - because it’s difficult to talk about it without getting the ‘culture-happy’ ‘how dare you insult our community’ types all in arms. the hold one’s family has over one, isn’t going to go away magically. without being able to criticise it, its certainly not going to go anywhere. its one of the most difficult social change issues as well - given its your family, and that has major psychological implications.

      and no its not just a pakistani muslim issue in as much as it comes out of the traditional cultural norms of the many groups found in the indian subcontinent and many other places.

    16. sonia — on 3rd December, 2008 at 1:06 pm  

      so let’s look at the reality of support one needs in situations like this. Immense - we’re talking about having to replace people’s ‘families, effectively. we’re talking serious psychological help, and then being able to find and sustain social and support networks for oneself.

      we have heard lots of talk about ’shelters’ - (and laws) but that’s front-line stuff only, certainly very important, but let’s think more of what will need to be sustained down the road. self belief, self valuing, self esteem. what kind of life can one of these girls look forward to? ok so first of all its clear they’d have to earn their own living, and make their own social connections, and that’s clearly the really hard bit, every girl will no doubt think, all the other [girls in my community] are conforming, if i don’t - i will be an outcast. what ‘community’ will accept me? these are the people i belong to. who will i look to for social support then? she may well have heard the likes of Ashik and co. who say, well you have forsaken your community, who will help you now? these are the really scary things. Peer support, and support networks - are going to be crucial - and if someone feels they are literally the only one doing it, well that’s going to be pretty impossible. i think one of the positive things that comes out of all this attention on FM - is perhaps that people realise they aren’t alone. it has to be visible, and the few women who are brave enough to tell their stories - kudos to them. they have managed to make that step, and a lot to offer to future people in the same situation.

      these are the kinds of things that as young teenagers/young adults are really difficult to think about.

    17. Golam Murtaza — on 3rd December, 2008 at 1:26 pm  

      Just another angle on this issue. Have you noticed how women who are married against their will ALWAYS seem to be married to chronically unstable guys who beat them up, molest them e.t.c. When is the last time you’ve heard of a forced marriage victim say: “Well, he wasn’t a bad guy actually”. (O.K. maybe that happens, but I suspect it’s only an occasional thing).

      So in this respect I guess forced marriage is just a brutally clumsy way of marrying off men which no sane woman would willingly touch with a barge pole…

    18. sonia — on 3rd December, 2008 at 1:40 pm  

      yeah Murtaza, or perhaps, more likely, the people who engage in this kind of behaviour,(i.e. the in-laws who brought the girl into their home) think it is acceptable to behave like this, and that a wife should be beaten. she has been subjugated already, what’s a little beating going to do?

      after all, if you don’t think consent is necessary, perhaps you don’t think civilised behaviour is necessary either.

      they all go hand in hand, in case you hadn’t noticed. the kind of mindset that thinks a woman has no rights, is hardly not going to beat her up too.

      but actually, to be fair, its not always the husbands. there are many cases in the indian subcontinent, where women (we dont call it Forced Marriage much because so many are “arranged marriages with not much option left for the girl, and no FMU unit and little chance of an independent life without family’s approval, and you don’t even need to bring violence into the equation, just a few hints) are tortured by their mother-in-law and sisters-in-law, and commit suicide to escape that. husbands are not that significant necessarily.

      so you see - what’s screwy is the WHOLE FAMILY dynamic. she has effectively been sold to the family, not the man. these FM things are significant in as much as its not the union between the man and the woman that’s significant, its the union of families and keeping up the old tribal ways

    19. persephone — on 3rd December, 2008 at 3:42 pm  

      I saw the doc despite knowing in advance that Saira Khan was the presenter. Not sure that she added much or probed enough apart from when she got a female match maker to reveal that such marriages were done to keep the money (via dowry etc) in the same blood family.

      Saying the driver is to retain the family lineage does not seem to quite fit.

      It would have been better if someone like Louis Theroux (if only he spoke urdu!) had presented this.

    20. sonia — on 3rd December, 2008 at 9:24 pm  

      just watching the first bit of the documentary -so many things - the girl tania having to leave with the man from the FMU- surely that would be hard for so many girls and in many cases, the people in the shops you could see would have stepped in when the husband said look he is taking my wife? you’d think given the cultural context he would have had a ‘chaperone’ along as well.

    21. sonia — on 3rd December, 2008 at 10:19 pm  

      watched the rest..heartrending

    22. Nesrine — on 4th December, 2008 at 9:51 am  

      I know, right at the end when the girl who left her husband tells of how when she speaks to her Mum on the phone they just cry, that’s when I lost it.

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