Persuasion, Not Jane Austen’s

At the beginning of this week, MPs were calling to criminalise forced marriages.  The Government has a “forced marriage unit” which handles around 300 cases a year but The Telegraph has reported that the figure could be as high as 8,000 a year.

What a difficult issue to deal with – if you are a young person and your family is able to bully you into a forced marriage, then you are also less likely to be a person confident enough to report it to anyone.  Jasvinder Sanghera, a victim of forced marriage, set up a helpline by founding a charity, Karma Nirvana.  Last year, they received 4,815 calls and 63% of them were from callers who had not reported their situation to the police, teachers or doctors.

I have no immediate experience of forced marriages – however, I know a lot of people, who (in my opinion) were coerced into their marriages – is this the same thing?  Fortunately marrying first cousins is a practice that no longer takes place in my community, but it does still happen.  Aren’t all of those marriages slightly forced – who grows up dreaming of marrying their cousin?

My sister had a friend at university who had this choice (she was a beautiful post-grad):  either marry a cousin who was a graduate but she did not find him attractive; or marry a cousin who was better looking but worked in his dad’s taxi rank.  And just in case you think “why didn’t she consider option 3: none of the above” – well, it was made very clear to her that if she did that, her younger sister would not be allowed to go to university.


3 Comments to “Persuasion, Not Jane Austen’s”

  1. Hi Bubbly,
    I really do believe that forced marriages should be criminalised.

    This is a very difficult subject and one has to be careful to define “forced”. As you quite rightly pointed out, there are subtle coercions into marriage that are equally as forced. These marriages ruin women’s lives. I have volunteered in a refuge where women have ran for their lives.

    There is also the concern that criminalising something may drive it underground and it needs people to report it. However, the law needs to protect these women and maybe if these women knew that there was a law to protect them, they might just start using it. Additionally, charities that support women from forced marriages would have the law on their side rather than it being a family issue.

    Keith Vaz spoke openly about the committees response to the PM today and I really hope that they are listened to.

  2. Also, at college, I also knew a girl who was forced to marry someone. She was the daughter of the Imam and was told that if she didn’t get married to the chosen man her younger three sisters would not be allowed to go to university and would be married immediately.

    There is so much bullying and fear that surrounds marriages in Asian communities an it really needs to be addressed.

  3. My cousin had around six close friends from uni with gurjarti background. In the year after graduation all six were married. How could all six of them meet a guy fall in love and get married?

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