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  • Raising awareness about forced marriage

    by Rumbold
    12th April, 2010 at 11:21 am    

    Women and men who have been forced into marriage (or came close to being so) are to tour schools and police stations in order to raise awareness about the issue:

    Those working to stop the practice say the period just before the summer holiday is always their busiest time of the year. They hope that prompting survivors to tell their own stories will encourage children at risk to come forward and local authorities to take those fears seriously when they do.

    This seems an excellent idea to me. One of the biggest problems amongst both forced marriage victims and the state (e.g. police and schools) is the lack of awareness out there, in terms of how it happens and what support is out there for victims.

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    Filed in: 'Honour'-based violence

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    1. KJB — on 12th April, 2010 at 12:43 pm  

      As long as it doesn’t prove too distressing for the escapees, this does sound like an excellent idea. I hope there will be a lot of emphasis put on the fact that it is possible to help somebody without ‘telling’ on them and facing community condemnation for being a ‘grass’. Anyone can apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order, and independently contact the FMU - as long as young people have a clear idea of what to do when they know someone in that situation, hopefully it will mean that the burden is not as heavy on the police to deal with FM situations on their own.

    2. Mangles — on 12th April, 2010 at 1:22 pm  

      Good one Rumbold. The more awareness on this issue the better- this paranoia about marriage amongst parents and within our communities really has to stop.

      THE FMU should build links with some community organisations to take the message into the communities as well. Might need some work doing on it but I know there will be some takers. Not the usual suspects I know but within the Sikh community I came across a seminar on this a couple of years ago in Birmingham by the Gurdwara Council, Sikh Human Rights Group and others, think it was BOSS or BSCF.

      Rab rakha!

    3. Arif — on 12th April, 2010 at 1:31 pm  

      I agree that awareness raising is what can be of most help to people in this situation.

      People in such a situation may not know that there is support out there for them if they challenge a forced marriage.

      They will also need to know how people who have faced this situation before and refused have survived psychologically and socially. But it has to be honest. If people who escape try to pretty it up in order to make it easier for people to make the decision to say no, then those people might be left with far too little support.

      Escapees’ testimonies should also be a spur for community leaders (however much people at PP hate them) to look at what can be done to support them more from social ostracism.

      As KJB says, that is a large responsibility to put on people who have already been through a lot. I hope that the awareness raising campaign encourages those community groups who hear the message to take initiative to find out what they can do for escapees.

    4. saeed — on 12th April, 2010 at 2:10 pm  

      gov. needs to get tough…5 year automatic sentences for any one found guilty of this…

      and to be fair the MAB has acted badly over this issue…

    5. platinum786 — on 12th April, 2010 at 2:37 pm  

      ^^^ Not that easy. A lot of what goes on in forced marraiges is distasteful, perhaps immoral, but certainly not illegal.

      Lets take an example, Mr Shah takes his 16 year old son on holiday to Bangladesh. Whilst there, Mr Shah comes across a young girl he wants his son to marry. Mr Shah asks his son to marry this girl, his son refuses. Mr Shah provides his son with an ultimatum, you either marry this girl, or you can go your own away, but you won’t be under my roof and I won’t consider you a part of my family.

      Is it unfair? Yes, i’d say it is. Is it harsh on his son, certainly so yes. Is it illegal? No. All Mr Shah has done has said, “my roof my rules” to a 16 year old, someone who is legally an adult. Mr Shah has no more legal duty to provide shelter or income to his 16 year old son. You can’t touch Mr Shah for that.

      Had Mr Shah stolen his sons passport (entrapment) or threatened him physically etc, then you would have a case against him, in these cisrcumstances, however distateful they may seem, Mr Shah is well within his legal right.

      Raising awareness on the other hand is a much better approach. If Mr Shah’s son is aware that he can get a place to stay in a hostel, he can get food to eat if he’s thrown out of home, he can say No with greater confidence than he could without knowing that.

      Legally speaking a good approach is to increase the legal age of marraige to 18.

    6. halima — on 12th April, 2010 at 2:53 pm  

      Hi, there Rumbold, I’d like to bring the ‘P’ back into Progressive Politics on this issue, you know me, always wanting be be contrary on what otherwise looks to be a sound post you have put up.

      I think like violence against women, the more effective way to prevent such violence is usually with the involvement of the perpetrators - the men, the extended family - not the women themselves who are actually exposed to more threat and violence once she’s left alone to get on with things . Unless she completely ‘disowns’ her community, family and like which is quite a harrowing process, believe me, i know too many teenage girls who’ve run away from home to avoid forced marriage only to have their family support stripped away which makes for a difficult life actually - not unlike being an orphan and relying on minimal state support which is increasingly at risk of being dismantled and stripped away.

      Male involvement in violence against women is seen as the more effective and cutting edge way to deal with this difficult problem affecting the heart and soul of communities ( violence against women , that is) and I would prefer to see the same approach in dealing with forced marriages and other such aggression against women ( and I am told some young men).

      So I’d prefer more progressive approaches to rooting out this god awful practice.

    7. Rumbold — on 12th April, 2010 at 9:08 pm  


      You know me, always wanting be be contrary on what otherwise looks to be a sound post you have put up.

      Nothing wrong with that.

      Male involvement in violence against women is seen as the more effective and cutting edge way to deal with this difficult problem affecting the heart and soul of communities ( violence against women , that is) and I would prefer to see the same approach in dealing with forced marriages and other such aggression against women ( and I am told some young men).

      That would be the ideal scenario, certainly (and don’t forget that 15% of victims are male), and it is something we should push for, but I don’t see why this isn’t progressive either. Surely the two appraoches can be combined- vctims raising awareness while confronting the perpetrators in order to effect a shift in mentality.

    8. halima — on 13th April, 2010 at 9:00 am  


      Using ‘victims’ to highlight the awareness raising work puts too much responsibility on the women (and some men) and in typical development fashion throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and even now, when development agencies went into developing countries to do their work on ‘gender’, you know, go in and ‘fix’ the problem, and then leave (because they will always leave because the post ends, organisation shuts etc, and development is a long-term business and not always working in sinc with short-term payrolls), the women are left to fend for themselves in communities which won’t change overnight. The gender-awareness raising work which makes women’s role visible is often problematic for me, without male/community involvement, you end up creating a potentially much more dangerous and exploitative situation. And so the exploitation and abuse continues. First from ‘the community’ itself ( though of course there is no such things as a community, in my end, but a coalition of interests, whatever cultural coating people use) and then from the un-intentional impact of ‘progressive NGOs’ etc. So you have to be careful how you approach such matters, and I don’t mean being PC about forced marriage, I simply mean realising that such work involves higher risk for the women in such communities, so I prefer more broad-based interventions that are less personalised.

      Also, I am sure you’ll appreciate from a political point of view, anything that reads too much like ‘self-help’ speaks to a certain political manifesto that rose to prominence in the 1980s.

    9. Rumbold — on 13th April, 2010 at 7:51 pm  


      Again, I don’t think your points are incorrect if that is the only thing that is done, but why not do both? Raising awareness gives victims the tools to fight back, while working to change mentalities reduces the chances of people becoming victims in the future.

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