What is a Forced Marriage?
A forced marriage is one that is conducted without the valid consent of both parties, where duress - emotional or physical is a factor. Forced marriage is a form of abuse and breaches internationally recognised human rights standards; it can not be justified on religious, cultural or any other grounds. Victims may suffer mental abuse and domestic violence, abduction, unlawful imprisonment, loss of property and assets, humiliation and even rape. This may lead to loss of self-confidence: feelings of shame, isolation and disempowerment: a loss of educational and career opportunities: removal from the victim's family or familiar environment and in many cases self-harm.
Forced marriages are different from arranged marriages; in arranged marriages both parties have the right to choose to say no at any time. In forced marriage there is no choice.
Is forced marriage just a Muslim/South Asian problem?
Forced marriage is not solely a ‘Muslim’ or ‘South Asian’ problem. The FMU have dealt with a wide range of cases including cases from Hong Kong, the US, China and different parts of Africa. The majority of cases on forced marriage that come to our attention are indeed from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. However, this is largely a reflection of Britain’s ethnic minority population. Despite this, we are aware that we need to put more emphasis on raising awareness in other communities and intend to focus on this throughout the year.
The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) UK dealt with approximately 400 cases in 2007 and 1600 cases in 2008, including reluctant sponsor cases. The majority of cases they deal with are female victims. However around 15% of their cases are males. The majority of cases involve those from South Asian communities, although victims come from a variety of backgrounds and religions. Approximately 65 per cent of cases are in the families of Pakistani origin and 25 per cent are in the families of Bangladeshi origin. Around a third of cases the FMU deals with are minors (under 18), some as young as 13.
British High Commissions / Embassies provided consular assistance in 168 cases relating to forced marriage overseas last year.
The Forced Marriage Unit recognises that forced marriage is significantly under-reported and the problem is undoubtedly more widespread than these figures suggest.
In Save Your Rights, together we believe we can put a STOP to Forced Marriages. We do not wish to publish any true stories related to forced marriages however; we will be producing few videos for a clearer understanding of this issue.
We would like parents to understand with respect that forced marriage and emotional blackmail should not be the approach taken when at that stage.
We think forced marriage is an issue in our culture due to the lack of education and understanding of the parents. We would like it to be prevented from happening.
SYR on Forced Marriages:
Save Your Rights (SYR) is a fast growing organisation helping many people around the world. The organisations aims to aid people undergoing forced marriages. We believe one of the biggest ways into helping those suffering from such an ordeal is by educating those who allow or promote an act as appalling as this. Over the years, forced marriages have been acknowledged as an issue that needs to be addressed with the seriousness as any other crime committed. The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) works in conjunction with the Home Office (HO). They had stated that they ‘see around 400 cases a year’. At SYR, we are aware that there are help already out there for people suffering from this abuse. However, we feel that more needs to be done. A recent study carried out by Dr. Nazia Khanum (2008) found that these figures could be as high as 3000-4000 cases per year. This shows that forced marriages are much more hidden than people appreciate, and thus we aim to bring about the awareness of this corrupted form of marriage.SYR at the moment is only working in the UK and Bangladesh. We intend on growing and work for Africa and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries, which include Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. These countries seem to have the highest levels of forced marriages. We seek to form a global forced marriage unit as this way we would be able to help a greater number of sufferers. Our plans are mainly based on spreading the message. This tactic would enable people to realise the presence of this concealed, yet rapidly growing phenomenon. This would then facilitate a greater help to those unfortunate people enduring this terrifying and painful experience.
Who will benefit?
SYR is a non-profit organisation, running due to the help of active volunteers and other supporters. A large number of people have suffered immensely from forced marriages and although help is already out there, it hasn’t managed to stop its rate. We do understand that it is difficult to put a stop to certain behaviours, yet we believe that it is possible to slow the pace down. 85% of victims are women, and these tend to be young school children. In many cases, they are taken abroad to marry there. As unrealistic as it seems, these experiences people undergo are painful, evil and very real indeed. We have no intention in working to help ourselves, but those who desperately need the help. There are many people, who have suffered a great deal of emotional, psychological and physical pain, and we wish to reduce these numbers for the coming future. We were not able to help those who have already endured these tortures, but we can prevent more people suffering the same. In order for us to be loyal to our aims, we require help from the wider society. We require more active volunteers and members, who can join us in the pleasure of making a difference. We also feel that it is a necessity that we have other organisations supporting us. With this, we will be able to spread our existence to more people, and thus gain more help. As any other entity in this society, nothing is possible without money. Having funds and donations would allow us to initiate the projects we had planned. We hope to gain these in the near future, lessening the number of people who would urgently require help from forced marriages.