Posted by: Winslie Gomez | 18/02/2008

Dignity, Not Property by Marriage

When a person becomes property, they lose their identity and human dignity.

I firmly stand for the detailed questioning of any practise that destroys or degrades human dignity.

I ama person

In all walks of human society, whenever we encounter the erosion of individual liberty, through claims of tradition, religion, culture or a myriad combination of issues;


we need to pause and take a closer look at the reasons behind the birth of such practise.

Just as in human birth, which starts with the onset of labour, marked by the beginning of regular, painful, uterine contractions.

In the same way many contradictory traditions have their embryonic beginnings in some logical and commonsense solution, wrought in pain, but over time take on a glorification to such an extent that they transcend beyond the original meaning to a new form of “ism” with no explanation or justification relevant to the current context of life.

It is always easy to be dogmatic and judge these events from our current-subjective-cultural perspective.

Forced Marriage, is the subject for discussion.

There has been some recent furore about Forced Marriage in the UK Media. Where have the leaders of these communities been for the last fifty years?

If schools are hesitant to divulge the names of students who travel to Asian sub-continents and then just disappear, how is the government (UK) meant to tackle this obnoxious practise?

Such difficulty is being experienced by the UK governments Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) Tackling Human Rights Abuses.

Contact details are:(+44) 20 7008 0151. email:

A Forced Marriage :

* is one where people are coerced into a marriage against their will;
* involves duress – physical, emotional or financial;
* is an abuse of human rights;
* cannot be justified on any religious or cultural basis;
* is not an arranged marriage. In an arranged marriage, individuals have a CHOICE as to whether to accept the arrangement or not.

Most case study show that forced marriage is being portrayed by families as arranged marriage, but in truth it denies and robs the persons individual choice, freedom and dignity.

Teenager unlawfully killed, 11/01/2008 12:13

Unlawful killing verdict recorded on a Muslim teenager found dead on a river bank, five months after she disappeared.

The body of Shafilea Ahmed, 17, was discovered beside the River Kent at Sedgwick, Cumbria, in February 2004, following claims from friends and teachers that she feared being forced into an arranged marriage.

Police launched a murder inquiry and arrested her parents on suspicion of kidnapping the Warrington teenager but both were released without charge.During the four-day inquest in Kendal, Cumbria, Shafilea’s mother, Farzana Ahmed, accused detectives of not doing enough to find her daughter’s killer.

Let’s leave this for a moment and look at another equally degrading practise from the past history of SATI – which is banned in India.

Hindu religious scriptures do not demand widows to commit Sati. The word sati has been confused with word Jauhar.

Here comes the reason and I dare say a pretty logical one.

Among the Brahmins and Kshatriyas, a bride was looked upon as a burden as she represented a drain on the family’s income while not contributing anything towards it. If this was her status as a bride, it is not surprising that if she had the misfortune to become a widow, her presence in the family was dreaded. And apart from being considered an object of ill omen, her presence after her husband demise was a dead weight to her in-laws family

When faced with the prospect of not being able to support oneself, the widow takes the next possible logical route, i.e. to end her existence. But at least society will depict it as an act done in ardent fervour.

It is admirable that the Indian people were able to abolish this brutality in December 4, 1829 (some credit this to British in India).

The BBC carries a report, of the “sons arrested in sati death probe.”

Causes of Forced Marriage?

The main causes fall into three broad categories according to Community Liaison Unit report–

(i) family

(ii) sexuality and independent behaviour

(iii) honour.

Forced and/or child marriage is deeply rooted in the social norms of many communities. In remote parts of the globe, marrying at a young age also prevents girls from staying in school and establishing independent financial security. She becomes subservient and completely dependent on and to, the male. The conservative and traditional families fear the influence of the “decadent” western values and try preventing the shame of unwanted pregnancies or other consequences of sexual activity outside of marriage, by getting the daughter married early, especially in cultures with the fixation of the “virgin bride”.

Parental control over sexual activity and behaviour appears to be a dynamic motivator for embracing traditional values. The concept of an unwanted pregnancy would defile the family honour and this in turn leads to the rise of honour killings.

Parents often pressure their daughters to marry for economic reasons, such as relieving financial burdens or improving their socio-economic status.

The far more frightening and distressing aspect is if, the pattern of forced marriage is a kind of eugenics.

Have elders in the community deliberately turned a blind eye to instances of forced marriage because they fear a dilution of their sub-group genetic blood line by inter-racial marriage to European, African or some other forbidden grouping?

AIHRC in Afghanistan has this to say

Forced marriages, under age marriages, and multiple marriages were identified as major causes of self-immolations, along with the harmful consequences of the past decades of war and oppression of women during the past 25 years. Continuing restrictions on women’s lives as a result of the lack of security in the country were also identified as contributing factors.

The CLU report also identifies the basic survival skill as

Endogamous marriages are used to reinforce kinship of networks and group boundaries and to maintain the cultural distinctiveness of the group and its identity. Caste hierarchy and status are important motivating factors in the arrangements of marriage.

This is becoming a global problem as Germany too faces calls for forced marriages to be banned.

The Ethics and Religions section of the BBC suggests

The issue of forced marriages has been traditionally treated with hesitation by the government, for fear of offending cultural sensitivities.

But more information about the nature of forced marriages and a clearer understanding of cultural values has brought the subject under scrutiny.

We need to return to a point in some communities, where women and young girls are treated with respect and dignity and if it requires laws to be brought in to enforce and enlighten the older generation, then we need to support that legislation in every aspect of life in the UK. We are facing difficult issues and no doubt similar situations occur in other parts of the developed world.

I am reminded of these words of a song by Whitney Houston

I decided long ago
Never to walk in anyone’s shadows
If I fail, If I succeed
At least I lived as I believed
No matter what they take from me
They can’t take away my dignity.

Thanks for Photo, credits and links to:

I am a person.




  1. Forced marriage are very common in my society. They are one of the most blatant abuses of human rights. You are right- these women become property. Have you seen the Pakistani movie “Khuda ke Liye” (In the name of God)? It’s mostly in English and it deals with this issue as well as the rise of fundamentalism. Do see it if you can. If you can’t find it and want to see it, I’ll try and send you a copy.

  2. Thanks Nabiha
    The person as an individual needs to be appreciated by many societies.

    No I have never seen any Pakistani or Indian films, If you can find a link, would appreciate it!

    I am pleased to hear your society feels free to express these views.

  3. “In all walks of human society, whenever we encounter the erosion of individual liberty, through claims of tradition, religion, culture or a myriad combination of issues; we need to pause and take a closer look at the reasons behind the birth of such practise.”

    I so agree. Unfortunately some Muslims see it as an assault on The Truth. They should liberate themselves from an archaic moral code with barbaric punishments.

    Forced marriages is illegal in modern society. It’s called rape and if a dowry is paid just plain human slavery.

  4. thanks for bringing this to light, as it unfortunately goes unspoken in most parts of the world.


  5. Hey Winslie,

    You can download it here:

    It’s well worth watching. It deals with terrorism, forced marriage, the treatment of suspected terrorists in the US etc.

  6. Jedyoong
    You have strong words, like rape! But then technically that is what it boils down to, I suppose!
    I never thought about it that way, more the intransigences of the older, first generation Asians, now living in UK.

    Dowry! Is that still alive and kicking?

  7. Sammm1777
    Thanks for dropping by, appreciate the comment.

  8. Nabiha
    Thank you for that link.
    Tough subjects, especially the suspected types.

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