Forced Marriage
April 28, 2005 12:09 PM   Subscribe

A week after Saudi Arabia banned the practise of forced marriage, Hamid Karzai followed suit, announcing he would seek the same freedoms for young women in Afghanistan. In the UK, a special unit within the Foreign Office has handled almost 1000 cases of forced marriage since it was set up in 2000, and this year a special joint Forced Marriage Unit was launched by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for outreach & awareness purposes. While a law barring forced marriage is expected to publish in the UK later this year, some take umbrage at the often-misleading "forced marriage" terminology and are worried that its criminal-offence status could actually deter women from speaking out against it.
posted by jenleigh (25 comments total)
A fine post.

Regretable threadjack: first US-style British political leaders' TV debate, coming up. RealVideo.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:15 PM on April 28, 2005

Thank you for the great post, jenleigh.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:19 PM on April 28, 2005

Personally, I am interested to know how the new law would define the difference between forced and arranged marriages. Arranged marriages of some type seem to happen in most societies where preservation of some trait, be it religion, wealth, skin colour or whatever are considered important. Which covers, at least partially, all societies.

Sharia TV covered issues around this subject recently. The influence of the Imam on devout muslims should be considered. Bear in mind that all of these answers a concurrent with sharia law.

• Do parents have a right to insist on an arranged marriage? What about men who enter arranged marriages but still have girlfriends?

Children should obey their parents – but parents should not insist on marriage against their child’s will. Sex outside marriage is wrong.

• What solutions are there for older women who want a husband, since many Muslim men seek young brides from abroad? What about the internet and speed-dating?

Ruqiyyah Waris Maqsud wants Imams to provide opportunities for young Muslims to meet. She likes the idea of Muslim speed-dating. The panellists are wary of, but not completely opposed to, the internet as a way of meeting partners. Sheikh Ashraf Salah believes that brides from abroad may not be well equipped to live in Britain. Mona Mohammed thinks women are too fussy!

That bit of the program was fairly amusing with most of the girls in the audience saying the boys were too fussy, and most of the boys saying the opposite.
posted by asok at 12:27 PM on April 28, 2005

Way to go, allies!
posted by kirkaracha at 12:29 PM on April 28, 2005

Forgive me for being skeptical about Saudi Arabia's seriousness in dealing with the "forced marriage" issue, but in a place where women are routinely victims of so-called "honor killings", with their bodies being discarded in the desert like some forgotten trash the claims sound very hollow indeed.
posted by clevershark at 12:36 PM on April 28, 2005

I share your skepticism, clevershark. But bin Al al-Sheik's ruling has turned a lot of heads:

From Time:
In the intensely patriarchal Saudi society, in which a woman made headlines last week for suing her father (for refusing to take her back into his house after she divorced her husband), it's not certain that even the Grand Mufti is powerful enough to change the status quo. But the Saudi monarchy is strongly, if quietly, supporting his action. A source close to Crown Prince Abdullah says that the de facto Saudi ruler sees the move as part of his effort to institute political and cultural reforms, and that allowing women to drive might be next on the agenda.
posted by jenleigh at 12:45 PM on April 28, 2005

I still think optimism is misguided, especially when one is talking about a country where the muttawa can beat a woman in public if she so much as shows a little ankle, or walks down the street too close to a man who is not either her husband or related to her in some other way.

More unlikely things have happened in world history, but the way Saudi society is shaped -- the result of decades of pandering to extremist religious factions second in harshness and brutality only to Afghanistan's Taliban -- it's hard to imagine that this pronouncement will lead to a situation much different from the "Burton" story I quote. In it there is no forced marriage -- just young women getting killed because they refuse to let themselves be forced into a marriage.
posted by clevershark at 1:01 PM on April 28, 2005


cultural changes happen one tiny piece at a time. I think it's a flaw in the way we view things happening in other cultures as needing to follow an all or nothing path. Yes the muttawa run around in SA, and there are the same morality police in Iran and other countries. It is only once they become delegitimized by a few women pulling their shawls and showing their hairlines, or claiming that they want to have some say in the decisions in their lives, that they will start to lose power.
I'm not saying everything is dandy but this stuff happens slowly, it's the only way it happens.
posted by stratastar at 2:25 PM on April 28, 2005

stratastar writes " I'm not saying everything is dandy but this stuff happens slowly, it's the only way it happens."

Exactly. It's very premature to raise our hands in the air and proclaim "Mission Accomplished" quite yet.
posted by clevershark at 2:52 PM on April 28, 2005

and god bless the women that do speak out -- this is your chance!
posted by Satapher at 3:03 PM on April 28, 2005

There you go. Hating the Muslims again.
posted by tkchrist at 3:11 PM on April 28, 2005

crk-shhhhh crk-shhhhhhh crk-shhhhhh
And on side B of this particular broken record...
posted by seanyboy at 3:57 PM on April 28, 2005

For better or worse, I might have finally become overreliant on blogs & Metafilter instead of the usual sources (BBC, WaPo, NYT) for news, because somehow the story of both SA and Afghanistan banning forced marriages completely escaped me til now. Thanks for the links, jenleigh.

Personally, I am interested to know how the new law would define the difference between forced and arranged marriages.

From the Home Office doc:
Forced marriage is an abuse of human rights and cannot be justified on any religious or cultural basis. It is, of course, very different from arranged marriage, where both parties give their full and free consent to the marriage. The tradition of arranged marriages has operated successfully within many communities and many countries for a very long time.

But good point, as the distinction still doesn't necessarily seem that...distinct. From the sound of the Home Office doc, part of whom UK authorities are targeting is young people who have been literally 'duped' into getting married by traveling overseas under the guise of 'visiting family', only to be met by a wedding ceremony once there. Can anyone elaborate on this?

crk-shhhhh crk-shhhhhhh crk-shhhhhh
And on side B of this particular broken record...

posted by dhoyt at 4:25 PM on April 28, 2005

It's very premature to raise our hands in the air and proclaim "Mission Accomplished" quite yet.

I don't know of a single instance of anyone in this thread claiming that the mission is accomplished in Iraq, clevershark. Thanks for the post jenleigh.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 4:30 PM on April 28, 2005

I don't have a problem with arranged marriages. I know lots of spouses in such marriages and they seem to be great. When they have a problem, they have to work it out, whereas other people oftentimes just give up and divorce. Our divorce rate is quite high, you know.

As far as Islam goes, the sunnah is that a parent cannot force their daughter to marry anyone. Any such marriage is invalid.

Parents can object to their daughter's choice in husband only if they object to his Islam. If there is no problem with the way he practices Islam, they must allow their daughter to marry.

Unfortunately, as we've seen in countless issues, fanatics in the arab world forget about this teaching to enforce others that enrich their own authority.

Even a local cleric sets the bar pretty low for his daughters. He says if you suggest a husband and the girl says nothing, it means she likes him, because she's too shy to speak.
posted by b_thinky at 5:43 PM on April 28, 2005

SeizeTheDay writes " I don't know of a single instance of anyone in this thread claiming that the mission is accomplished in Iraq"

As you may have noticed, this story isn't about Iraq. You know, the phrase "mission accomplished" existed for at least decades before W had that banner put up.
posted by clevershark at 6:11 PM on April 28, 2005

You're right. I slipped Iraq in there subconsciously without remembering the subject of the post. But the reason why I said anything in this thread is because you made it seem like comments here alluded to some sort of finality within the subject, when all I saw was praise of progress. That's all. I just felt like your cyncism was unnecessary and arrogant. Like your last comment suggesting that I didn't know that "mission accomplished" has been used by past leaders. It was an honest typo on my part; nothing more.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 6:20 PM on April 28, 2005

crk-shhhhh crk-shhhhhhh crk-shhhhhh
And on side B of this particular broken record...

Now now. We all know this particular nonbiased poster is going to broaden her criticism to include other cultures involved in forced marriage Real Soon Now.

posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:59 PM on April 28, 2005

And maybe you'll shut the fuck up.
posted by Snyder at 4:06 AM on April 29, 2005

I don't have a problem with arranged marriages.

Let me guess: you're a guy, right?
posted by languagehat at 6:11 AM on April 29, 2005

Yeah, I'm a guy. I have a problem with FORCED marriages, but not arranged marriages. An arranged marriage is where two families hook their kids up. Both husband and wife enter as equals. A forced marriage is when one family basically buys a slave (usually a female) and calls her a spouse.

It's great that you're so open minded though.
posted by b_thinky at 1:37 PM on April 29, 2005

I really don't see the difference between an arranged marriage or a forced one, except in the second case, both husband and wife are forced. It might not be as brutal, but there's nothing about arranged marriages that prevents it from being so, so I don't see the difference.
posted by Snyder at 2:08 PM on April 29, 2005

Both husband and wife enter as equals.

Yup, you're a guy. Not putting you down, but it's really hard for guys to come to terms with how difficult life is for women, even in our liberated, darn near perfect society, let alone in one where your parents tell you who you're going to marry. "But if she doesn't like the guy, she can just tell them!" Isn't it pretty to think so.
posted by languagehat at 5:00 PM on April 29, 2005

More than half of Kyrgyzstan's married women were snatched from the street by their husbands in a custom known as "ala kachuu," which translates roughly as "grab and run." In its most benign form, it is a kind of elopement, in which a man whisks away a willing girlfriend. But often it is something more violent.
posted by grouse at 3:49 AM on April 30, 2005

A month late, but a link for the archives of a group I helped out..
posted by Mossy at 7:24 PM on May 24, 2005

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