There were some very interesting (and alarming) comments (by one ‘tarxien’) on this post by Sunny on the Brick Lane fuss by (the comments say) a GP who has seen some distressing examples of arranged marriage.
There is a very fine line between ‘arranged’ and ‘forced’…This is an issue I feel strongly about because as a GP working in Tower Hamlets and south London I have seen many desperate, depressed women in ‘arranged marriages’. None of them could be called ‘forced’ in that the women were not tied up and raped as has happened in some cases but you cannot ignore the emotional pressure that is put on young women by their families (i.e fathers in most cases). Once married these women have no realistic way out if they are not happy. Their own family disowns them once they are married. I could tell some shocking stories but space prevents me.
Some of the worst cases of abuse I have seen in my practice are precisly where, either a British bengali woman has been forced or shall we say ‘persuaded’ to marry a man from Bangladesh who does not speak English or understand British traditions of womens’ rights or alternatively where a Bengali woman has been brought to Britain as a wife to a British man. The woman does not speak English and is extremely isolated, separated from her family and culture, often with a man who despises her for her ‘backwardness’.
In both cases it is the women who suffer. Obviously there are cases where the marriage works I would not dispute that. But there are a lot where it does not. There is usually a feeling among professionals – doctors, social workers etc, that we cannot intervene because it is a ‘cultural ‘issue and would upset the community.
I cannot begin to describe the frustration I have felt in having to walk away and leave these women knowing that their life is intolerable. One woman told me clearly that, after 15 years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse from a man who told her on their wedding night that he had only married her to obtain a British passport, that she was waiting until her daughter was old enough to look after herself and she would then take poison. She had tried leaving but her own family refused to take her in and told her to go back to he husband or the family would be disgraced. Shortly after this the family disappeared and I do not know what happened to her.
Do any of you know of any good books or articles on this? I’d like to know more.