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Forced Marriage and the South Asian Culture Panel:Saima Husain, Deputy Director South Asian Network Aisha Ishtiaq, Domestic Violence Advocate South Asian.

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Presentation on theme: "Forced Marriage and the South Asian Culture Panel:Saima Husain, Deputy Director South Asian Network Aisha Ishtiaq, Domestic Violence Advocate South Asian."— Presentation transcript:

1 Forced Marriage and the South Asian Culture Panel:Saima Husain, Deputy Director South Asian Network Aisha Ishtiaq, Domestic Violence Advocate South Asian Network Vidya Sri, Founder, Gangashakti Moderator:Abha Varma, OVW Grant Coordinator, Kiran Inc. Aarohan 20131

2 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 16(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. Aarohan 20132

3 No marriage shall be legally entered into without the full and free consent of both parties. Aarohan UN Convention on consent to marriage, minimum age for marriage and registration of marriages, Article 1

4 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women A womans right to choose a spouse and enter freely into marriage is central to her life and her dignity and equality as a human being. (General Recommendation No.21, Comment Article 16 (1) (b),) Aarohan 20134

5 One Potential Version of an Arranged to Forced Marriage Continuum Gangashakti.org5 Family Suggests Need for Marriage Family Insists on Control of Process Individual Questions Process & Intent Family Dismisses Need for Consent Family Uses Shaming Family Uses Violence to Reinforce Shaming Individual is Denied Right of Refusal Individual is Forced into Marriage

6 Forced Marriage and the South Asian Culture Forced Marriage: Forced marriage is a marriage that has an absence of consent from one or both parties and uses one or more elements of coercion, violence, and/or fraud to cause the marriage. There is no ability to choose ones partner and the right of refusal may be denied by the family for one or both individuals. There is an absence of free will in a forced marriage that differentiates it from other types of marriages including an arranged marriage where, although the parties to the marriage are introduced to each other, the final decision to marry remains with the two parties. Forced marriage is distinguishable from other forms of violence by the complicit role the family and community play in perpetrating the violence. Aarohan 20136

7 Honor Violence: The terms honor crime or honor-based violence embrace a variety of crimes of violence (mainly but not exclusively against women), including assault, imprisonment and murder, where the person is being punished by their family or their community. They are being punished for actually, or allegedly, undermining what the family or community believes to be the correct code of behavior. In transgressing this correct code of behavior, the person shows that they have not been properly controlled to conform by their family and this is to the shame or dishonor of the family. Aarohan Forced Marriage and the South Asian Culture

8 Arranged Marriage: The families of both spouses take a leading role in arranging the marriage but the choice whether or not to accept the arrangement remains with the prospective spouses. Consent is essential to all marriages – only the spouses will know if they gave their consent freely. Remember, If families have to resort to violence or emotional pressure to make someone marry, that persons consent has not been given freely and therefore it may not be arranged. Aarohan Forced Marriage and the South Asian Culture

9 Some Causes of Forced Marriage Forced marriage can happen at any age to minors and adults including individuals with physical or mental disabilities. Such a marriage can be used to execute a financial transaction. Control perceived inappropriate and/or sexual behavior. Restrict an individuals right to self-determine his/her choices including choosing a life partner. It is often used to ensure that an individual is adhering to a pre-determined code of conduct. Forced marriage is also used to control the chastity of an individual and uphold so called family honor. Aarohan 20139

10 Types of Violence Used – Impact on Victims of FM Gangashakti.org10 Homicide Sexual AbuseImmigration IssuesForced/Abandoned OverseasIsolation/False ImprisonmentPhysical/Economic AbuseCoercion/Intimidation Suicide Attempted Suicide Self-HarmAlcohol & Substance AbusePoor Work/Academic RecordExcessive Absence from Work/SchoolDepression

11 524 Survey Respondents including social workers, students, law enforcement, at-risk individuals and scholars in womens studies. 37% were aware of known cases of forced marriage in the United States. In fact, these respondents stated that they were aware of 563 cases. 53% stated that they were aware of suspected cases of forced marriage in the United States. Gangashakti.org 11 Overview of 2012 Forced Marriage Survey

12 Major Recommendations on FM from 2012 Study Gangashakti.org12

13 Value of Marriage Marriage seen as a valued entity in the South Asian community Marriage most respected or valued accomplishment, more than education, employment, independence, etc. Women in abusive relationships do not seek safety or separation DV survivors who leave frequently re-marry quickly, told they cannot be alone and need a man in their lives Young women told they need a man Young women told marriage will bring them safety, security and status Told they will have more freedom when they marry, they can travel etc. Aarohan

14 Pressure begins early Pressure to get married for young women begins in their late teens, early 20s The pressures come from grandparents, extended family and also immediate family If women are not married they are made to feel inadequate The age at which this happens varies and depends on what is the norm and what is happening in the community. Ranges from Pressure also from friends and peers Aarohan

15 Control and Coercion Pressure takes the form of silent treatment, blaming the young woman for all the familys problems, fights, health concerns etc. Women must limit their education and employment options Told not to pursue higher education – limits their pool of suitors as a woman has to be less educated than her husband Cannot pursue employment that is more than 9-5 pm or that requires out of state travel Aarohan

16 Little choice Not allowed to plan future, ask questions of future spouse Even when they are not forced to marry someone of their familys choosing, have little leeway in their choice of spouse Potential partner has to have a certain education, look good on paper, has to be South Asian or be of the same religious background Many women are told the person has to be from the same ethnic group (Punjabi, Sindhi, Gujarati etc) or the same village as them Aarohan

17 Taught to self-sacrifice Feel they have to choose between their family/community and what they want Do not want to be part of the community that judges them but it is hard to leave as their parents and siblings are part of the community If they stay they know they have to change and give up parts of themselves to fit in Women expected to sacrifice themselves for family/community Women feel like they are the only ones facing this pressure, they feel alone Women need to know that they have choices Even the women who date or can talk to potential suitors find it difficult to ask questions relating to their future and the marriage (as opposed to the wedding) Aarohan

18 Wedding vs. Marriage Weddings more valued than actual marriage More thought/preparation placed on wedding customs/rituals Everything has to be just perfect on wedding day Bride/Groom told to be on best behavior during wedding and to look perfect Not given any advice on how to act/behave after the wedding is over Bride/Groom given a false sense of importance during the wedding by guests/relatives Bride/Groom given a false sense of reassurance that marriage is easy during wedding day Harmful advice is given to bride/groom during the wedding After the wedding, nothing is discussed and no advice is given Married couple realize the realities of married life after the honeymoon period is over Many are unable to handle the expectations and responsibilities of marriage Aarohan

19 SAN Focus Groups Age Single/engaged and currently/formerly married South Asian Women Provide safe space to discuss pressures/realities of marriage within South Asian culture how marriage has influenced their decision on other life goals, such as education, occupation, living on their own, travel, etc Married participants able to provide useful advice to single/engaged participants on what to expect when married Aarohan

20 SAN Focus Groups Cont. Use focus groups to bring South Asian women together Build a supportive network for women experiencing similar situations create their own community that is accepting Assist women to become leaders in their communities and talk openly about the topic of marriage and the expectations it places on South Asian women alone Talk to young female teens about the expectations and responsibilities of marriage and alternative options Aarohan

21 SANs goal SANs vision is to prevent violence not just by demonstrating healthy relationships Offer pre-marital counseling, partnering with faith-based leaders, bridal shows etc. Engage older women and men Rewrite the rules and expanding horizons about womens roles, what is possible for women and expected of women Changing cultural norms around marriage and its value Aarohan

22 Forced Marriage and the South Asian Culture Closing Comments Q & A Copyright All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publishers. No unauthorized use permitted; all derivative works must have prior approval from the publishers. Aarohan


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