Jan 17, 2017

How we can really help women and girls escape forced marriages

Condemning Islam, insisting that children turn their parents in to be jailed and ostracising an entire community will not help women forced into marriage.

Shakira Hussein — Writer and academic in multiculturalism

Shakira Hussein

Writer and academic in multiculturalism

Nearly four years after the federal government passed legislative amendments aimed at combating forced and servile marriages, charges were laid for the first time in the Melbourne Magistrates Court last week.

In 2015 in New South Wales a 27-year-old man was sentenced to 10 years in jail for the persistent sexual abuse of a child after "marrying" a 12-year-old girl, and the imam who conducted the "marriage" was found guilty of procuring a child for the purpose of sexual abuse. The imam was fined $500 and his religious visa for residence in Australia was cancelled. That case was heard under New South Wales criminal law rather than under the federal forced marriage legislation because the defence argued that the marriage was consensual and at that stage, age was not considered a factor in whether or not a marriage was consensual -- a loophole that has since been closed. 

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10 thoughts on “How we can really help women and girls escape forced marriages

  1. anthonyhall

    One of the biggest problems as I see it is that within all considerations and discussions of this problem is that the needs of the “kid” comes last. All the adults including the author of this story are primarily focussed on the good reputation of those poor adults and their religious communities. Give us a break, start putting the needs of your children first may be a first step in addressing this vile abuse.

  2. old greybearded one

    Fair comment for sure. When does arranged become forced I wonder. I know one or two Indians who have had arranged marriages, apparently OK. Of course we should also consider a few supposedly Christian cults that come up now and again but hey white Christians would never do that would they?

  3. AR

    Another of Ms Hussein’s usual taqiya dissembling & cisobfuscation.
    The central problem, – “do not wish to follow Hirsi Ali’s example by exiting their religious community is easily solved.
    No religious delusion allowed in the public space.

  4. Will

    Shakira is pleading for cultural tolerance toward Islam to facilitate judicial flexibility toward families of child brides. It’s a hopeless plea. And there’s even less hope for “better resources for support services and refugees”. Trump happened. Like the A-bomb, you can’t un-invent it. We’re in a new world of barbaric cultural hyper-intolerance, so the strategic route now may well have to be the exclusively judicial one.
    I’m no lawyer, and even knowledgeable about the marriage rules of Islam’s various iterations, but it seems to me (leaving aside the groom’s statutory rape culpability, because no-one is challenging that) there are two quite separate issues here.
    One is the objective wrong of the marriage act (i.e. the child-bride marrying ceremony itself), and the other is the wrong as experienced subjectively by the ‘bride’. Vital parties to the former should be automatically held to account by Australian law: Obviously the officiator, as active giver of the bride; the groom, as active receiver; but also (though to a lesser extent of culpability, given their role is crucially more observational or ‘passive’) any formal witnesses. These witnesses may or may not include parents, but their punishments may be not unreasonably nominal in light of their more ‘passive’ role in the criminal marriage act. On this view, it would be the active parties that should be the focus of heavy punishment specifically aimed publicly at deterring the ‘event’ of child marriage.
    On the other hand, the bride (and only the bride) should have the option of bringing charges for mistreatment or similar (other than statutory rape, and any associated or facilitating acts, such as confinement or delivery, etc.) such as may have been committed by parents of either the bride or groom, or any others (such as harassment, extortion, emotional blackmail, etc, as well as confinement, delivery, etc). In this way, the bride could be reserved the right to act OR TO NOT act against her own parents (and just as reasonably, act against any others directly involved, including any in her own, or in the groom’s, wider families), but still not be compelled to act by the state.
    What I’ve said here may be completely misguided, but just as it is certain the law can’t make any special exceptions for Islam, it’s even more certain that hoping judges influenced by a fresh culture of tolerance toward Islam is a worthy but utterly hopeless pipedream.

    1. Irfan Yusuf

      Forced marriage happens among girls of Sikh, Hindu and other faiths.

      1. AR

        And, Yusuf, what do they have in common? Religious ratbaggery.
        All religions are garbage, some are far worse than others.

      2. Will

        I never doubted it for a second, Irfan, which is why my ‘legalistic’ proposals are scrupulously non-denominational (other than observing that the point of departure for my suggestions is the futility of Shakira’s desire to defend Islamic culture, via publicly funded ‘services’, etc).
        What is telling though about your response is its appeal to Islamic people’s victimhood. Listen up: that just politically won’t wash in the West. Tragically, but no less true for it, Israel totally beat you Muslims to special global victimhood status (simply because the Holocaust happened in the West, and the 1973 Yom Kippur surprise attack on Israel settled it forever in the Western popular imagination).
        You guys really do have to get smart and give up these decades of failed identity politics. Nobody gives a stuff about your culture’s uniqueness, its geographical history, or the political legitimacy of its claims, if all that it represents today is big old “we’re owed!”
        Western imperialism screwed everyone; and, in Western eyes, precisely because everyone’s owed, no-one’s owed. Not even the liberal left sympathises with Islam today. And following the atrocities of ISIS, no matter how mistakenly, it likely now never will.
        Hence my argument that Shakira should stop appealing for public sympathy, and start thinking strategically. The ICV shouldn’t be responding with speeches. It should be leading with legislation. It needs to give up being the voice of victims, and instead declare itself the voice of survivors. Public support might follow that. But in the age of Trump there’s no chance it’ll follow “we’re really no worse child rapists than Sikhs or Hindus”.

  5. Hugh Harris

    ….”nor have their plight appropriated as a means of attacking it”.

    How is Hirsi Ali appropriating anything? It’s her life and her plight.

    The NY Times published excerpts from Hirsi Ali’s letters in 2006, which dispel the sinister charges carelessly repeated here, that she made up the arranged marriage.

    1. Shakira Hussein

      There is no doubt that the arranged marriage took place. The dispute is over whether or not she initially consented.

      1. Hugh Harris

        The “dispute”? So you admit your article suggesting Ayaan Hirsi Ali was lying about her marriage is mere hearsay.
        New York Times – Somali in The Hague Faces a More Personal Attack
        Published: May 24, 2006
        The New York Times dispelled that gossip in publishing excerpts from letters:

        ”Your husband in Germany is looking for you,” the letter reads, ”and the whole search is being coordinated by father here.”

        “Referring to members of their clan, Haweya wrote: ”Practically all the Osman Mahamud in that area are looking for you everywhere. Be warned.””

        “In January 1993, after writing to beg forgiveness for her disobedience in refusing the husband chosen, she said she needed his blessing.

        ”Dear Deceitful Fox,” her father replied. ”You do not need me and I do not need you. I just invoked Allah to disgrace you, as you have disgraced me. Amen!”

        Seems pretty clear to me. (I can’t imagine why you’d want to pick on Ayaan Hirsi Ali).

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