Forced Marriage Act tested


by Rumbold
7th December, 2008 at 6:43 pm    

A British woman, Dr. Humayra Abedin, has been held in Bangladesh for months in order to force her into a marriage:

“Her parents and uncle were yesterday served with a Forced Marriage Order issued by the British High Court on Friday. Dr Abedin, who has worked as a doctor in the Britain since 2002, is among the first cases to be heard under the Forced Marriage Act which came into force on 25 November. The move came after the family ignored orders from the Bangladeshi high court to bring Dr Abedin to court.

The new legislation allows judges to issue protection orders to prevent forced marriage and help to rescue victims who have already been married off. Those convicted of forcing people into marriage can be jailed for up to two years.”

It is good to see the resolve of the British courts, However, as the Bangladeshi courts have failed to save her so far, I wonder if this attempt will succeed. Moreover, as a new report shows that one in five 14-15 year old girls (and one in four 16 year olds) have experienced violence at the hands of boyfriends, while another study revealed widespread misogynistic attitudes amongst teenage boys, we should remember that anti-female attitudes and actions are far from uncommon in this country, even in the younger generation.


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Filed in: 'Honour'-based violence,Bangladesh,Sex equality






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  1. ac256 — on 7th December, 2008 at 9:20 pm  

    Rumbold there is no need to try and balance out critique of the Asian problem by drawing in issues of tenuous relevance from UK life.

    The Asian issue needs focus, not distractions.

  2. Mezba — on 7th December, 2008 at 9:23 pm  

    I welcome this move. I think though that children will be reluctant to see their parents go to jail, so maybe this law can only be preventive in its effect.

  3. Rumbold — on 7th December, 2008 at 9:34 pm  

    Ac256:

    But I was trying to highlight the fact that domestic violence exists in all parts of our society. I certainly wasn’t trying to minimise the awfulness of ‘honour’-based violence.

  4. Sunny — on 7th December, 2008 at 9:49 pm  

    Maybe ac256 would like to pretend this is entirely an Asian problem…?

  5. Sid — on 7th December, 2008 at 9:58 pm  

    It is unfortunate that Rumbold has to build in the caveat. Otherwise, there will be the usual diversions in the comments box which will assert that Rumbold’s ommission is due to an anti-Asian agenda.

  6. Rumbold — on 7th December, 2008 at 9:59 pm  

    Ac256/Sid:

    It was not meant to be an attempt to ‘balance’ anything (though I see why you thought that), but an effort to recognise that domestic violence exists even without the ‘honour’ based element, so we need to deal with both forms.

    Sid:

    I was going to post on the reports anyway, so when I saw the forced marriage story, it made sense to combine the two.

  7. ac256 — on 7th December, 2008 at 10:13 pm  

    children hitting each other is vastly different to a system that rewards parents for abusing their children. The only link is mysogyny, it’s very tenuous.

    Rumbold the post is excellent as is the news it reports, which is why imo the story about the kids should be a seperate topic of its own. I’d be interested to discuss it further.

  8. Vikrant — on 8th December, 2008 at 1:15 am  


    A British woman, Dr. Humayra Abedin, has been held in Bangladesh for months in order to force her into a marriage:

    From what i’ve read she is a British resident rather than a citizen. Which makes me wonder whether British courts have any jurisdiction and capacity to help the poor woman!

  9. Ashik — on 8th December, 2008 at 4:25 pm  

    Rumbold, I’m glad that you are just as concerned with general attitudes toward women in the UK. Both honour crimes and other gender-influenced violence equally need to be addressed. Continually criticising one small section of the population inevitable draws negative responses.

    Regarding this particular lady, the authority of the British courts depends on where she is domiciled ie. wishes to settle and immigration status. The interest created by the order issued by the courts will certainly strengthen her case in Bangladesh, as will the media attention. Matters such as this are usually seen as in the private sphere where courts, police, lawyers do not usually tread ion Bangladesh. Hopefully the authorities will intervene here as they would not in 99% of usual cases.

    The article indicates she was in some kind of relationship with a Hindu Bangladeshi man. This is a universally repugnant position in Bangladeshi society as women are not permitted to marry out within the bounds of Islam. Her family standing would have been destroyed. This once again shows the dangers of Dhakaiya Bengali women (our Sylheti Bengali women usually have supportive/monitoring family networks in the UK) coming to study alone in the UK. They cannot often reconcile the freedoms in personal life enjoyed in Britain with their more conservative upbringing in Bangladesh. People sometimes go overboard by engaging in activities eg. illicite relationships & drugtaking than those of us born and bought up here who have more coping mechanisms and extended family support. Perhaps parents and family need to be more aware and instruct their children appropriately about life in the UK.

  10. Leon — on 8th December, 2008 at 4:48 pm  

    I think though that children will be reluctant to see their parents go to jail

    Depends on the parents. Growing up I knew a few people who’s parents where abusive and if they could have been free of them earlier they’d turned out better…

  11. The Dude — on 8th December, 2008 at 7:06 pm  

    Does everyone here agree with me that domestic violence against women and children is just plain wrong? I hope that the authorities in Bangladesh sort themselves out and back to the full extent of the law the ruling of the British Courts. The word must go out that if a hair on this woman’s hand comes back out of place, that there will be consequences. May God keep Dr. Humayra Abedin safe from the harm, her parents and relatives would inflict upon her.

  12. The Dude — on 8th December, 2008 at 7:21 pm  

    Ashilk

    When in Rome….

    Your third paragraph has no relevance for the plain reason that no one and I mean no one has the right to force their belief upon another human being against their will. In the final analysis, if parents don’t like how their grown up children are living their lives, that’s just tuff for them. If the people of Bangladesh don’t like this then they shouldn’t send their children to be educated in the decadent west.

  13. Ashik — on 8th December, 2008 at 7:38 pm  

    ‘ If the people of Bangladesh don’t like this then they shouldn’t send their children to be educated in the decadent west’.

    This is what I’m getting at. Some Bengali/South Asian parents let their girls dress, socialise and behave in a very Westernised fashion but put their foot down when they inevitably want to marry out of race and/or religion. They do not set clear boundaries and then want their offspring to marry someone their children simply would not be compatible with. They send the wrong signal to their kids and that brings heartache to everyone.

  14. halima — on 8th December, 2008 at 8:05 pm  

    It’s strange that this is a highly educated woman suffering from forced marriage – i mostly associate it with women who lack rights and relevant qualifications etc ..mistakingly so perhaps,

    and yes, domestic violence ,too is about attitudes towards women and so on so good to highlight this as Rumbold as done. I know many female friends in potentially and actually abusive relationships and they are economically independent and so on, so the emotional mess ups in these relationships are reflective of male attitudes to women .. , and women’s inability to resist and negotiate their way in matters of personal intimacy and relationships..lifestyles .

  15. halima — on 8th December, 2008 at 8:09 pm  

    “Does everyone here agree with me that domestic violence against women and children is just plain wrong?”

    I would go as far as to say that children’s rights should be put first – always and above parent’s desires to instill x and y value . Sometimes this is the best defense of children and other vulnerable groups.

    “They send the wrong signal to their kids and that brings heartache to everyone.”

    I think bringing up children is pretty tough – no matter how we do things, it’s never plain sailing, the most i can aspire for with my children with be that they treat others with respect and fairness , manage to earn a decent wage – and stay safe. I don’t think these contradict Islamic values or other moral values.

  16. Roger — on 8th December, 2008 at 8:17 pm  

    “Growing up I knew a few people whose parents were abusive and if they could have been free of them earlier they’d turned out better…”
    Did the children agree then, Leon? We forget how very strange- compared with our adult perceptions- a child’s view of the world is. I’ve worked with children who were sexually abused and had no objection. Apart from the abuse- which the children often didn’t know was abuse- the adults concerned treated the children much better than their parents did. [Yes, I know: "Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?"- but that does reflect the way many children see the world] Children think that if they are mistreated it is their fault; if they are taken away from their parents it is- they think- their failure, not the parents that underlies it.

  17. halima — on 8th December, 2008 at 8:33 pm  

    “I’ve worked with children who were sexually abused and had no objection. ”

    Leon’s made a perfectly sensible point which is that children from abusive parents would be happier without their guardians.

    What is your point? How should be better equip children to understand, report abuse, support them to be strong so they do not blame themselves and to de-stigimatise sexual abuse so that children see it as any form of abuse that needs outing?

  18. Roger — on 8th December, 2008 at 11:57 pm  

    Leon was replying to this point: “I think though that children will be reluctant to see their parents go to jail.”
    The implicaations, which I assumed were obvious, were that children often do not know they are being abused, that neglect and other less noticeable abuses may be even more harmful than sexual abuse and that we do not- and cannot- know whether the children would have “turned out better” if they were taken away from their parents.

  19. Golam Murtaza — on 14th December, 2008 at 9:12 am  

    Great news. According to BBC news website, Dr Abedin has been released and is now being looked after by a Dhaka court. I assume she should be able to return to England soon.

    Apparently her father ‘collapsed’ when he and his family were threatened with prosecution if they didn’t release Dr Abedin. IF any of the allegations of abuse against her are true, I hope his recovery will be slow and painful.

    Not that I’m the vengeful type of course…

  20. sonia — on 14th December, 2008 at 4:42 pm  

    good news she’s been ‘freed’ given what vikrant said in no. 8!
    the bbc said” Dr Abedin arrived in Britain in September 2002, when she studied for a Masters degree in public health at Leeds University.” but she may well have had british nationality already who knows.

    still – worth noting that in many cases, (particularly with dual nationality) who has jurisdiction will be definitely something to think about, as it clearly requires the co-operation of the govt. and judiciary systems of other countries.

  21. sonia — on 14th December, 2008 at 4:48 pm  

    “this stuff ashik says:

    “This once again shows the dangers of Dhakaiya Bengali women (our Sylheti Bengali women usually have supportive/monitoring family networks in the UK) coming to study alone in the UK. They cannot often reconcile the freedoms in personal life enjoyed in Britain with their more conservative upbringing in Bangladesh. People sometimes go overboard by engaging in activities eg. illicite relationships & drugtaking than those of us born and bought up here who have more coping mechanisms and extended family support. Perhaps parents and family need to be more aware and instruct their children appropriately about life in the UK.”

    goodness me, what a controlling freak! the people who who try and forcibly restrain people from making their own choices in life share this kind of controlling attitude towards their children’s lives. people have to be free to make their own mistakes. for your information ashik, those girls were probably up to ‘much worse’ {in your book} in dhaka and just hiding it like everyone hides everything. because they’re not free to make mistakes and experiment and live life openly, that’s why. and that’s what all families are obsessed about their ‘honour’ – whose truth will out first?

  22. Ashik — on 14th December, 2008 at 4:59 pm  

    Was wondering when you’d pop up here Sonia! Still validating your lifestyle choices, eh. Bravo!

    In Dhaka girls can’t normally walk down the street in trousers and t-shirts. LoL A girl has a better chance of dressing as she pleases on Whitechapel Road than Dhaka. So they wouldn’t have been up to much in dhaka. My comment still stands that a guy or gal with supportive family networks in the UK is likely to think twice about marrying out. If for no other reason than financial support given by extended family. Also immigrants are more likely to marry ‘out’ to get Brit citizenship than those born and bought up here. Isn’t that right Sonia?

  23. sonia — on 14th December, 2008 at 5:17 pm  

    well obviously i validate my own choices – for me. i have made my decisions and i will accept the consequences of those decisions – i have the agency to do that!

    had i been married in a traditional way and something went wrong – i’d have someone else to blame. that’s nice isn’t it? comforting in a way, and cowardly too. there’s always something.

    yes i make my choices, and if they don’t work out, i’ll deal with the shit. i’d rather do that than live in fear, and let other people take the blame, and responsibility, for my happiness or sadness.

    i quite realise most people, if they don’t have to, take up agency – its much more difficult than some realise, and there is much comfort in being able to shove agency off to someone else. so its perfectly fair enough that people do that – its easier in many ways. (though often results in bitter middle-aged auntie lady types who get their thrills vicariously through bollywood heroes) there are different “burdens” to bear in life – after all.

    but i daresay ashik dear, this is all too philosophical for you. you don’t like it that more and more women are simply ‘flounting’ our societies traditional rules. and there’s not much you can do about it, and you’re worried any daughter you have/may have will do the same. understandable, but you may as well confront your fears.

    and i don’t think you know Dhaka very well Ashik :-) ( after all, you are from Sylhet.). and things go on in the ‘inside’ not the outside, and i see no reason why i should disabuse you of the ideas you hold. given everyone has gone to so much effort to hide them!)

  24. sonia — on 14th December, 2008 at 5:25 pm  

    but i’d say the key difference with experiencing life in dhaka, and say here, is that people (guys/girls/men women/) do the same things. but in bangladesh/karachi/lahore etc. everyone realises it has to be kept secret. here, after a while, people realise,hiding and lying only do damage to oneself – why should they not be honest about what it is they do? why should they have to be schizophrenic about it?

    its the honesty, and wanting to be accepted for WHO you actually are, rather than who you are pretending – to your community – to be.

    of course in your Sylheti community, everyone’s just lying aren’t they. But you don’t think everyone knows – you dont want anyone to find out (perhaps you are innocent and you think they are, bully for you, hate to kill your naivete,) that’s why people were rioting about a bengali woman having an affair in a book! perhaps we should do a ‘mosque’ expose – not very nice -but it might have to force people like you to deal with the hidden realities.

  25. Payam — on 13th March, 2009 at 12:24 pm  

    Subject : Looking for a Partner of My Choice to Get Marry

    I would be very glad to make fried with you if you wish so which I hope will end for our getting closer day by day leading to a very good stage …

    Please, therefore, do not hesitate to write to me from now on at the following e-mail address:

    My E-mail Address:payaeye@Gmail.com

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