In this post we will explore the horrific human rights abuse of forced marriage.
When you ask a young girl to imagine what her wedding day will look like there’s only one response – magical. As children, girls fantasize about their wedding day with anticipation and excitement. There’ll be a beautiful white dress and a gorgeous veil, a tiered cake – no less than 3 tiers, and of course Prince Charming. However, not all young girls are so fortunate. Sometimes, in the blink of an eye, their fairytale Prince Charming turns out to be a stranger whom they are forced to marry.
“Forced marriage is all too common in the West”
Unbeknownst to many, the concept of a forced marriage is all too common in the West. A forced marriage is a union forced onto one or both parties without her or his consent. The marriage can be forced with physical violence or through using subtle psychological pressures. In addition, because it violates the principle of the freedom and autonomy of individuals, the UN views forced marriage as a form of human rights abuse.
While it happens amongst other segments of the population, Muslim girls are very common targets for such abuse. As underage marriage is illegal in the U.S, they are often sent away on holiday to visit family abroad and either never return, or return a child bride. It’s truly the perfect crime because most girls don’t even know what’s happening until it’s too late.
“Her teenage sisters were sent away…”
Yasmine, unfortunately, became a victim of a forced marriage when she was 15. Born in Chicago, Yasmine had a fairly ordinary upbringing. She had friends, went to school and did extracurriculars. At age six, her teenage sisters were sent away to Palestine and never returned. As a child this upset her, but she learned to think of it as normal.
Things took a turn for the worse after Yasmine graduated elementary school. She learned that her mother did not plan to enroll her in a high school and was subsequently told to pack her bags to visit her sisters in Palestine. She boarded a plane with her mother and grandmother and when they arrived she was introduced a man. Being a girl of 15, Yasmine did not realize what was happening. However, her sisters explained that he was to be her husband and that she could do much worse.
Yasmine felt she had no choice, her mother held the keys to her passport and freedom, and so, she was forced to marry him. Naturally, the first night was awful. But Yasmine tried her hardest to play the part so that she could devise a way out.
“Yasmine had no access to her passport…”
A few weeks in, Yasmine managed to get hold of a computer, reached out to some friends on Facebook and told them what happened. They immediately expressed concern, confirmed her belief that what had happened to her was illegal, and encouraged her to reach out to the American consulate for help. After doing so, she was met with a series of questions to which she didn’t know the answer including where she was and to whom she was married. Because Yasmine had no access to her passport or social security number, it took about two months to confirm everything. After it had all been verified, the consulate arranged a car to take Yasmine to safety, helped her get back to America, and she was then put into foster care.
Yasmine’s story is only one example of the horrors of forced marriages. Not all girls are lucky and find ways to escape. Some, like Yasmine’s sisters, have no choice, no voice and are left imprisoned in their husband’s homes.