29 September 2008

Forced Marriage

Photo courtesy of howtoplayalone
Last year, the Philippine Daily Inquirer featured an article that reported several forced marriages in England. Most of the victims were young Pakistani-British girls who were forced by their families to do the unthinkable - go back to Pakistan to get married.

In most cases, the primary motivation is money - since Pakistani men who marry Pakistani-British women are entitled to UK visas, the passport to better-paid work and a higher standard of living. These men paid to get married to a young girl and secure a work permit at the same time.

Worse, many of these Pakistani-British girls are as young as 9 years old. Charities supporting victims of forced marriages report growing numbers of young teenagers and children seeking help. They are urging schools to take tougher action where they suspect pupils are at risk, although these schools seems too timid when it comes to religious groups.

The article also reported that it is not uncommon for fathers to sell-off their daughters, such is the demand for ill-gotten visas. British officials working in Islamabad confirmed this during a hearing conducted by British ministers on whether to criminalize forced marriages.

This is definitely a good move. It is about time to abolish all restrictive and backward cultural practices that hinder women and youth’s free will. Opposing forced marriages is not enough. Criminalizing it and imposing stiff penalties is certainly a step in the right direction. One needs to be done now is to implement it diligently.

We all know how religion and old traditions oppresses women in the most grossest and the most outrageous forms. Respecting these religious practices is one thing. Ignoring the rights of youth and children is another and forced marriage is nothing but the violation of children's right to his or her body and mind. It prevent them from the right of a normal life in the present-day society. It prevents them from the right to enjoy a healthy and safe environment.