Thursday, January 13, 2011

“End Forced Marriage”

“Forced marriage should end because it is the worst violence against women. Forced marriage should be criminalized. We have paid respect to ancient tradition for so long that rights of women and girls are ignored. Parents should know that suppressing the feelings of their children is the worst crime one can commit against humanity. Should they throw away their girl children to the guts for their happiness and greed or should poverty consent them to sell their daughters to satisfy their desires?” a victim of force marriage in her 30s revealed to Musoolula Bantabaa.
Musoolula Bantabaa (Women’s Forum) is a column that brings you issues that affect the lives of women, hampering their contribution and achievement worldwide.
The number of women and girls who have become victims of forced marriages in The Gambia have been drastically underestimated. The issue of force marriage is growing especially in our rural areas. Most of this victims are school going girls. A forced marriage is a marriage that is performed under duress and without the full and informed consent or free will of one or both parties. Being under duress includes feeling both physical and emotional pressure. Some victims of forced marriage are tricked into going to another country by their families. Victims fall prey to forced marriage through deception, abduction, coercion, fear, and inducements and poverty.
Though it has not been limited to women and girls, as boys and men are also forced to marry against their will.
“I was force to marry a relative. He wasn’t my age, he was far, far more older and I didn’t want to marry him. I was leading a happy life with the man I love and I didn’t want to marry the one my father chose for me. It was hard for me and I was Confused whether to marry a person whom I love or go with my parents’ choice who threatened to disown me if I did not marry the suitor he chose for me”, she narrated.
“I was in love with a childhood friend, whom I have been dating for the last eight years before I forcefully got married, but I loved him secretly and my parents never knew about it. When he proposed marriage to me three years back, I said yes.........but my father threaten to throw me out of the house if I dare to. I was left with no other choice but to bow to my father’s words. I was scared to tell relatives or any other person that it was a forced marriage. I just pretended to be happy”, she said.
“I agreed with the point that parents always make good decisions for us, but when it comes to marriage it creates a hell lot of problems. Marriage is not just being in a union with an opposite sex. We all know how some old backward traditions oppressed women in the grossest and the most outrageous forms,” she explained and puzzled “Don’t you think it is time to request for an immediate measure to safeguard women’s wellbeing?”
“Parents or guardians, especially fathers do not ask for the consent of girl children for their marriage. In most cases the husband travel, he does not regularize his stay to be visiting home like my own case. My husband left and went to Europe since I was pregnant with my first child who is now ten years old. Though he has been taking care of me and his son, but the question is: How long will I wait to see him”, she said in watery eyes.”
“If I was asked to choose again, I will definitely marry the man I love rather the one they choose for me. I will not care if I will be disowned.  Marriage is not ideal, but a real thing”.
Women who become victims of forced marriage often have no idea about who their husbands will be and have no rights once they are married.

It is not wise to enter into marriage without the full and free consent of both parties, such consent to be expressed by them in person after publicity and in the presence of the authority, competence to solemnize the marriage and witnessed, as prescribed in the Quran.

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