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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Forced marriages

I wonder if our law adequately deals with outlawing forced marriages? I doubt it does, I doubt MPs have given it any thought - the immigrant families in this country that arrange marriages are well below the radar. The personal misery is not a public one. There was an Indian girl at my old school who had been promised to this guy in Sydney - having to live with this pressure and expectation - to have your parents determine the rest of your life for you before you have even left school. It's sick and it's dysfunctional. It's systemically dysfunctional. Family clans that practice arranged/forced marriage as part of their inbreeding or business interests are something we like to have thought died out the century before last. Here it did. Not so overseas.

I wonder how common this is? Whether it's "arranged" or "forced" it all amounts to the same thing. I'm not sure exactly what the wording of the UK law is, but he procuring and/or contracting of a marriage by persons other than the bride or groom when either the bride or groom is under the age of 18 (whether duress is involved or not, or whether "consent" has supposedly been obtained from either the bride or groom) should be illegal. And pretty much the same protection should exist for adults too.

The UK has larger immigrant groups and more experience of this than us - including vocal victims - so our new parliament should seriously consider the UK law and situation. We have to send a message to these family clans practicing backward (patriarchal) abuses of their children (to further their own material gains and social standing within their community of family clans) that it is completely unacceptable. These types of families represent people who are the hardest to integrate. Their family strategies usually are to bring as many members into the country as possible and never to inter-marry with the local population. They would prefer to send their children overseas to marry their own, rather than marry a local. That's not the sort of people we need here.

Obviously not every family from countries and cultures where many (or even most) families practice arranged/forced marriage are going to do that, but letting everyone into the country and just pretending as though these abuses don't happen is stupid.


At 26/11/08 1:29 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting - I dunno I see forced and arranged marriages as different things.

In most Indian cultures marriages are arranged but either party has the option of pulling out if they are not happy with it or they don't feel the partner is suitable, most Indian parents love their kids and won't marry them off to just any random old perv. The arranged part is just part of their cultural heritage (instead of going out, getting pissed, rooting, cohabiting, then perhaps getting married - which is a NZ'ers cultural heritage).

Also, women also have the right to divorce in India (and in NZ).

Why should the state intervene and disrupt accepted cultural practices? Obviously forced marriages are a bad thing (but how do you prove a marriage is forced, without the testimony of one of the participants?)

A blanket rule should be that marriages are only recognised legally if both parties are 18 or over maybe.

At 26/11/08 1:59 pm, Blogger Tim Selwyn said...

"just part of their cultural heritage"
- treating people (esp. women) as chattels is cultural heritage, that is what arranged/forced marriage is part of. I have heard Indians vehemently defending their arranged/forced marriage practices in terms of criticising NZ practices. This is a typical line of defence- and a very poor one - which shows little respect for the people amongst whom they live.

"women also have the right to divorce in India "
- and India has a lot of laws to protect Dalits etc. too, but the bad practices continue and the laws are often not enforced at local level.

"Why should the state intervene and disrupt accepted cultural practices?"
- it's not accepted here - in this country. And as you mention there are laws in India about divorce and marriages (or at least under-age marriages) too which have as their aim the protection of women and children, so they acknowledge at the official level that many of these practices are not acceptable.

"marriages are only recognised legally if both parties are 18 or over maybe."
- A hard 18 has some merit. However if you are 16-20 in NZ you have to have your parent's permission to marry - that's the current law from what I understand - I doubt that changed with the Civil Union Act. This sounds like a protection from unwise youthful decisions, but I suspect this actually aides and abets manipulative parents keen to force a union. Parents get to make the decision all the way up to 20. They don't, therefore just have the power to veto their children's marriage choice they have been given a lever to arrange it. So that aspect of our law needs to be looked at too.

At 26/11/08 2:50 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So the patriarchial culture of the maori which discriminates against women is ok ?

At 26/11/08 3:22 pm, Blogger Tim Selwyn said...

Here we go...

... what about for once, here we don't go.

It's quite clear what the topic is about: forced/arranged marriage.

At 26/11/08 4:52 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

treating people (esp. women) as chattels is cultural heritage, that is what arranged/forced marriage is part of.

Maybe through western eyes that what it seems like, but maybe in their culture they view it as potentially empowering to women (like the whole muslim veil thing).

Yes, underage and forced marriages are barbaric in any circumstance but consensual arranged marriages aren't necessarily a bad thing thing, just different to what we are used to.

I guess it comes down to how much you think immigrants should give up their heritage (especially parts of their heritage use westerners don't like) when they move here? Personally if they are not harming themselves or wider society, then let them go for it I reckon (Female circumcision - No, talking their own language amongst themselves - Yes).

At 26/11/08 8:35 pm, Anonymous DeepRed said...

Honour killings, anybody?

At 27/11/08 11:35 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do we really have a problem here? Surely there are existing laws against coercing people to sign contracts? And a marriage is just a contract like any other? If a person signs a contract under duress, that can be appealed in court and the contract rendered null and void. Isn't that sufficient? After all a "marriage" doesn't issue any obligations on the part of the parties, and the law doesn't permit married men to kidnap, rape or assault their wives any more than it allows random strangers to.


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