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What is Forced Marriage?

Discover what experts say about forced marriage.
A forced marriage is an illegal and invalid marriage. And it takes place without the consent of both parties. So it is absolutely key to state that what we’re talking about is coercion, duress, where there’s no consent. And just to elaborate a little bit further, coercion can take place in subtle ways. It can be direct or indirect, physical or emotional. And it can have bearings which could be of a psychological nature. So just to emphasise, we’re talking about coercion, duress, no choice. I was somebody that was one of seven sisters. So I’ve watched it happen to other sisters. So it was inevitable it was going to happen to me.
And what my family does, they marry you off in terms of your age. So I’d watch Rabina marry, and she’s two years older than me. So I knew my time was coming. The only time you may get married sooner is if the family feel if something’s happened and you’ve caused some shame or dishonour in the family. And therefore that becomes a trigger to get you married off earlier. So my sisters were married. And then it was getting closer for me. And within that space, I knew it was coming. And I was feeling incredibly anxious about this. But in your head, you just keep going to school. You just keep hoping that time isn’t going to come.
So I went to school. I loved school. I came home from school one day, and my mother sat me down. And she was very jovial. She was very matter of fact about this. I saw the routine she did with my sisters. And then she did exactly the same with me. So I knew the drill, as it were. And then she showed me the photograph, told me I was promised to him. And in my head, I was thinking all sorts of things in terms of, I want to say no. I want to say, I want to go to school. Really fearful about saying that, but I dared to say it. And I spoke my thoughts.
And I said to my mother, I’m not marrying a stranger. I want to go to school. And my mother was very clear in her response and saying, where you’re going you don’t need an education, you will not dishonour this family by saying no. She was very firm about that. Then she takes the picture and puts it on the mantelpiece and tells me he will grow on me. Then the next day, I’m expected to go to school as normal, which I did. But I continued protesting. And what my parents felt was, I became the threat, the threat of not honouring this promise of marriage.
So they took me out of school and then held me a prisoner at home in my bedroom, the padlock on the out door, until, basically, I conformed. For my young people, that I see, it is about having their mobile phone removed and the freedom restricted, and yes particularly for girls when they get to puberty. The majority of the young people I support are self harming or have self harmed, or attempted suicide, or have thought about suicide. And this is usually in relation to the expectations of them within their community, or the thought of a future that’s not theirs. And in that space I attempted suicide on one occasion by overdose.
And I remember it in terms of my family did not take me to accident and emergency because their fear was I would tell somebody. So my sister piled me with coffee. If you think this is going to get you anywhere, you’re wrong, and tried to wake me up from it, et cetera. So I tried that. And the isolation is immense because in that space, all the people you’ve grown up with, that you love– you love your parents, your sisters, your brother– they all turn against you. And I was the bad guy. I was the perpetrator. I was not conforming. You’re hearing the consistent messages of, well, why are you any different?
We had to go through with it, what’s your problem? And you feel as if you are letting them down. You don’t– I certainly didn’t feel a victim. I felt like I was doing this to my family. And they would be reiterating and reinforcing that message to me.

To begin our discussions we first need to define ‘forced marriage’. In this video, we’ll hear from a range of experts to help us think about what we mean when we use this term.

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Forced Marriage: Issues and Dilemmas

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