Forced Marriages: Sikhs and “Shame”

shame.jpgWell I was hoping someone far more knowledgeable from our esteemed blog roster would write about this, but I figured since I feel it is extremely important and raises some critical issues, you’ll have to settle for me.

Yesterday when I was watching CNN, Jasvinder Sanghera came on to talk about the recent release of Humayra Abedin.

For those that may not be aware, Jasvinder Sanghera is the author of a biography called Shame and the founder of Karma Nirvana, [an organization] with a view to createsupport project for women who experienced language & cultural barriers. I have read Sangheras memoirs and although her particular story of her parents attempt to force her into a marriage and the consequences she experienced is more extreme than most cases, still it echoes the larger problems of forced marriage in our community and differences may only vary in degree.

Karma Nirvana, while focused on women, does offer support to men and even employs a man to head the mens aid project, who himself was forced into a marriage.

The issue that brought Sanghera on CNN was related to the Bangladeshi doctor, Humayra Abedin. I must confess that I am not completely knowledgeable on all the issues surrounding her and am limited to summarizing a few newspaper articles. Sunny Hundal of Picked Politics fame wrote a short editorial on the issue as well. Additional information from commenters would be greatly appreciated.

Humayra Abedin, a physician, was training in London. Her parents became aware of her Hindu boyfriend and on a false pretense summoned her back to Bangladesh. It seems that Abedin was then drugged , abused, and held against her will by her parents. In fact her family placed her in a mental institution, believing that she was incapable of making decisions for herself. Rather it seems to me that this very decision by her parents makes them mentally unfit to be her parents.

Abedins boyfriend, unyielding efforts, helped to successfully publicize the issue and brought it to the attention of the Forced Marriage Unit (The Forced Marriage Act passed in the UK in 2007 and allows the state to prevent or remove a person from a situation in which they are being coerced into a marriage against their will). Abedin was not a UK citizen, but the UK agency seems to have helped generate worldwide attention.

However, other heroes are to be found in Bangladesh, including Abedins Bangladeshi lawyer, Sara Hossein and the Bangladeshi High Court. Sara Hossain stated:

Our courts have shown that we can guarantee the liberty of our citizens. This is quite a precedent.

Bangladeshi judge, Justice Syed Mohmed Hossain, summoned the family of Abedin and used the court order as an excuse to detain Abedin until British authorities came to collect her.

The judge stated:

“Children are not the slaves of their parents, they must have their own freedoms.

Earlier on this blog, we wrote about one particular Panjabi Sikh author that was able to resist the psychological blackmail of his family.

Thus while Karma Nirvanas website states:

We recognize that many inthe community do not support what we do and are often accused of many thingsbut this doesnot deter us, the commitment and dedicationof those who workwithin Karma Nirvana & support isself-evident[link]

This blogger (and member of the community) completely supports the groups efforts and calls for an end to this practice.

The issue of forced marriage is very much an issue in our community. I wonder what are the differences in pressure faced by men and women? What have been some of the pressure to marry that you have felt? Have they ever tried to pressure you into marrying a person against your choice?

For more information or if in need:

Karma Nirvana (UK) – 0800 5999 247
Maitri (USA) – 1-888-8-MAITRI

I am sure there are other organizations, feel free to list.


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17 Responses to “Forced Marriages: Sikhs and “Shame””

  1. Suki says:

    Have they ever tried to pressure you into marrying a person against your choice?

    In fact yes, my grandparents and other relatives forced my parents to make me get married at the age of 19 on my trip to the Punjab in 1996.

  2. Suki says:

    Have they ever tried to pressure you into marrying a person against your choice?

    In fact yes, my grandparents and other relatives forced my parents to make me get married at the age of 19 on my trip to the Punjab in 1996.

  3. Suki, please tell us the rest of your story. Did you actually end up married? Where are you now? Are you all right?

  4. Suki, please tell us the rest of your story. Did you actually end up married? Where are you now? Are you all right?

  5. Ashveer says:

    This problem affects men as well. I know a guy personally who is only 20, and upon his parents discovery of his inter-racial relationship, had him engaged in Punjab within two weeks!

  6. Ashveer says:

    This problem affects men as well. I know a guy personally who is only 20, and upon his parents discovery of his inter-racial relationship, had him engaged in Punjab within two weeks!

  7. Prem says:

    This is the biggest Human Rights issue facing Sikhs and South Asian Muslims in the diaspora. I fully support all efforts being made by the British government and agencies, led by activists like Ms Sanghera, to combat this evil social custom.

    This is one of the 'pressures' from Punjab that is not welcome to survive in the diaspora. I am glad that Britain is taking a lead on the issue. I hope that the same kind of activism and energy can emerge in Canada, which seems to me to be another locus of coercive marriage pressures in the diaspora. Something tells me though that the form of multiculturalism that Canada follows may inhibit this, in as much as ethnic politics feed into a reluctance to combat horrible customs that affect the most vulnerable in our communities — young women and men being groomed to be married against their will. The conservatism of some people wants to preserve the 'old ways' as much as they can. But the old ways, when they are evil and violate the rights of British, American or Canadian citizens have to be destroyed.

    I predict this piece of British legislation will be a big success, and you will see many, many successful injunctions and prosecutions of parents who engage in this social evil. I urge all conscientious Canadian Sikhs to use it as a template to confront the practise in Canada. If Sikh MPs cannot address this issue, what are they good for?

  8. Prem says:

    This is the biggest Human Rights issue facing Sikhs and South Asian Muslims in the diaspora. I fully support all efforts being made by the British government and agencies, led by activists like Ms Sanghera, to combat this evil social custom.

    This is one of the ‘pressures’ from Punjab that is not welcome to survive in the diaspora. I am glad that Britain is taking a lead on the issue. I hope that the same kind of activism and energy can emerge in Canada, which seems to me to be another locus of coercive marriage pressures in the diaspora. Something tells me though that the form of multiculturalism that Canada follows may inhibit this, in as much as ethnic politics feed into a reluctance to combat horrible customs that affect the most vulnerable in our communities — young women and men being groomed to be married against their will. The conservatism of some people wants to preserve the ‘old ways’ as much as they can. But the old ways, when they are evil and violate the rights of British, American or Canadian citizens have to be destroyed.

    I predict this piece of British legislation will be a big success, and you will see many, many successful injunctions and prosecutions of parents who engage in this social evil. I urge all conscientious Canadian Sikhs to use it as a template to confront the practise in Canada. If Sikh MPs cannot address this issue, what are they good for?

  9. Suki says:

    Suki, please tell us the rest of your story. Did you actually end up married? Where are you now? Are you all right?

    I posted my history on the Sepia Mutiny website last year here and the user name clueless.
    http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/004335….
    When I was forced to get married at the age of 20 on my 1st and only ever trip to India, it was my grandparents on both sides and some older aunt and uncles plus relatives I never met before in Punjab who put the pressure on my parents for me to get married. At the time I was as whitewashed or a coconut as one could be, I had little to no understanding of my punjabi culture. Alot of them want off on my parent about forgetting there roots.

    As soon I get off the plane for 3 month trip to India, people asked me when I was going to get married. I thought they were joking, but it was the same thing every day. At 1st my parents were against the idea, but after all the criticsm they get as parents for having me as a son, plus my stupid now dead grandmother threatned to disown my dad if I didn't get married my parents caved in.

    I saw over a dozen different girls there. One time I met 2 sisters at the same time and asked to pick the one I like. It was weird to see all these people who wanted to me to marry there daughter only cause I had a canadian passport. I kept saying no over and over again. One of the last girls I saw my family chose her to be my wife no matter what I had to say.

    Some people didn't believe my story, but one of the bloggers on the website came to my defence
    http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/004338….

    If one good thing came out of this other then my beautiful daughter, is that my siblings, younger cousins and the children of my older cousins will not have be put in the same situation that I was put into. They all saw the disaster that was my marriage as example.

  10. Suki says:

    Suki, please tell us the rest of your story. Did you actually end up married? Where are you now? Are you all right?

    I posted my history on the Sepia Mutiny website last year here and the user name clueless.
    http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/004335.html#comments
    When I was forced to get married at the age of 20 on my 1st and only ever trip to India, it was my grandparents on both sides and some older aunt and uncles plus relatives I never met before in Punjab who put the pressure on my parents for me to get married. At the time I was as whitewashed or a coconut as one could be, I had little to no understanding of my punjabi culture. Alot of them want off on my parent about forgetting there roots.

    As soon I get off the plane for 3 month trip to India, people asked me when I was going to get married. I thought they were joking, but it was the same thing every day. At 1st my parents were against the idea, but after all the criticsm they get as parents for having me as a son, plus my stupid now dead grandmother threatned to disown my dad if I didn’t get married my parents caved in.

    I saw over a dozen different girls there. One time I met 2 sisters at the same time and asked to pick the one I like. It was weird to see all these people who wanted to me to marry there daughter only cause I had a canadian passport. I kept saying no over and over again. One of the last girls I saw my family chose her to be my wife no matter what I had to say.

    Some people didn’t believe my story, but one of the bloggers on the website came to my defence
    http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/004338.html#comments

    If one good thing came out of this other then my beautiful daughter, is that my siblings, younger cousins and the children of my older cousins will not have be put in the same situation that I was put into. They all saw the disaster that was my marriage as example.

  11. Prem says:

    Dr Abedin was granted protection from her family by the court today. This is a victory for all progressive people in the South Asian community of all religions. Take the time to read the details of what happened to her. It is utterly horrific.

    ++++++++++++

    NHS doctor saved from forced marriage gets court safeguards

    An NHS doctor tricked into returning to Bangladesh, where her parents held her captive and forced her into a marriage, won high court protection today from any renewed attempts to remove her from the UK.

    Humayra Abedin, 32, a Bangladeshi national from Upton Park, east London, returned to Britain on Tuesday after being held by her parents for four months. Today, she said she had spent much of this time interned in a psychiatric hospital being given anti-psychotic drugs against her will.

    After today's hearing, she urged other women trapped in forced marriages to come forward. "Don't give up hope – there is hope." Abedin was eventually freed by a court in Bangladesh. Earlier this month the high court in London issued an order for her release under the Forced Marriage Act.

    Today Mr Justice Coleridge issued a series of orders obliging Abedin's parents to not remove from the UK, harass her or threaten her. "I shall grant further orders to protect Dr Abedin and prevent her being removed from this country again without her consent," the judge said in his ruling.

    Abedin was separately seeking an annulment of the marriage, which would take weeks, her lawyer, Anne-Marie Hutchinson, said.

    Abedin, who came to Britain six years ago to study and now works as a GP, reportedly went to Bangladesh in the summer after being falsely told her mother was ill. She was then held against her will and, in mid-November, was forced to marry a man chosen by her parents.

    The doctor said today that she had spent much of this time held in a psychiatric hospital. "I was held there for three months and forced to take medication, anti-psychotic drugs, which made things worse," she said.

    She said she had been "always monitored by four or five guards and was not free to leave the property" — her passport, tickets and other documents were taken from her.

    She said she wanted to "get back to my normal life, start my job", and insisted she bore no ill will against her mother and father: "They are my parents, they are still my parents. I do not have any bad feelings against them, any grudges."

    A lengthy statement released by the doctor's legal team outlined her ordeal, which began on 2 August when she arrived in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, having been told her mother was seriously ill. Three days later she visited the family home and was "manhandled into the property by a number of people and immediately locked in a room", according to the statement.

    She was able to send a few text messages asking for help, but after officials from a local human rights group visited her Abedin was dragged screaming from the family home to an ambulance and taken to a private clinic. There, she says, she was forcibly given mood stabilisers and anti-psychotic drugs and told she was "unstable". The doctor was kept there until 5 November, the statement added: "By that time she was in a complete state of despair, her spirit was broken and she felt there was no means by which her position could be resolved."

    Nine days later Abedin was married to a man chosen by her parents, despite objecting to this. By this time, court proceedings were under way in Bangladesh, but Abedin was told by her family that if she demanded to return to the UK her parents would be jailed and she herself could be detained for years while the case was resolved. The statement added: "Dr Abedin states that although she is an intelligent and educated woman by then her spirit and will was so worn down that she believed what she was being told."

    Abedin, who lives with her long-term boyfriend, a Hindu who works as a software engineer, was eventually brought before a judge in Dhaka and placed in the care of the British high commission.

    The 2007 Forced Marriage Act was designed to protect vulnerable individuals coerced into legally binding partnerships. Most cases dealt with by the Foreign Office's forced marriage unit involve families with Asian connections. The department has so far helped in 180 such disputes overseas.

    Hutchinson has said that there are believed to be around 300 to 350 similar cases affecting British women.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/19/humay

  12. Prem says:

    Dr Abedin was granted protection from her family by the court today. This is a victory for all progressive people in the South Asian community of all religions. Take the time to read the details of what happened to her. It is utterly horrific.

    ++++++++++++

    NHS doctor saved from forced marriage gets court safeguards

    An NHS doctor tricked into returning to Bangladesh, where her parents held her captive and forced her into a marriage, won high court protection today from any renewed attempts to remove her from the UK.

    Humayra Abedin, 32, a Bangladeshi national from Upton Park, east London, returned to Britain on Tuesday after being held by her parents for four months. Today, she said she had spent much of this time interned in a psychiatric hospital being given anti-psychotic drugs against her will.

    After today’s hearing, she urged other women trapped in forced marriages to come forward. “Don’t give up hope there is hope.” Abedin was eventually freed by a court in Bangladesh. Earlier this month the high court in London issued an order for her release under the Forced Marriage Act.

    Today Mr Justice Coleridge issued a series of orders obliging Abedin’s parents to not remove from the UK, harass her or threaten her. “I shall grant further orders to protect Dr Abedin and prevent her being removed from this country again without her consent,” the judge said in his ruling.

    Abedin was separately seeking an annulment of the marriage, which would take weeks, her lawyer, Anne-Marie Hutchinson, said.

    Abedin, who came to Britain six years ago to study and now works as a GP, reportedly went to Bangladesh in the summer after being falsely told her mother was ill. She was then held against her will and, in mid-November, was forced to marry a man chosen by her parents.

    The doctor said today that she had spent much of this time held in a psychiatric hospital. “I was held there for three months and forced to take medication, anti-psychotic drugs, which made things worse,” she said.

    She said she had been “always monitored by four or five guards and was not free to leave the property” her passport, tickets and other documents were taken from her.

    She said she wanted to “get back to my normal life, start my job”, and insisted she bore no ill will against her mother and father: “They are my parents, they are still my parents. I do not have any bad feelings against them, any grudges.”

    A lengthy statement released by the doctor’s legal team outlined her ordeal, which began on 2 August when she arrived in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, having been told her mother was seriously ill. Three days later she visited the family home and was “manhandled into the property by a number of people and immediately locked in a room”, according to the statement.

    She was able to send a few text messages asking for help, but after officials from a local human rights group visited her Abedin was dragged screaming from the family home to an ambulance and taken to a private clinic. There, she says, she was forcibly given mood stabilisers and anti-psychotic drugs and told she was “unstable”. The doctor was kept there until 5 November, the statement added: “By that time she was in a complete state of despair, her spirit was broken and she felt there was no means by which her position could be resolved.”

    Nine days later Abedin was married to a man chosen by her parents, despite objecting to this. By this time, court proceedings were under way in Bangladesh, but Abedin was told by her family that if she demanded to return to the UK her parents would be jailed and she herself could be detained for years while the case was resolved. The statement added: “Dr Abedin states that although she is an intelligent and educated woman by then her spirit and will was so worn down that she believed what she was being told.”

    Abedin, who lives with her long-term boyfriend, a Hindu who works as a software engineer, was eventually brought before a judge in Dhaka and placed in the care of the British high commission.

    The 2007 Forced Marriage Act was designed to protect vulnerable individuals coerced into legally binding partnerships. Most cases dealt with by the Foreign Office’s forced marriage unit involve families with Asian connections. The department has so far helped in 180 such disputes overseas.

    Hutchinson has said that there are believed to be around 300 to 350 similar cases affecting British women.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/19/humayra-abedin-forced-marriage

  13. […] brought the issue to prominence again in the UK. For those that are regular Langa(r)eaders, I have written about Jasvinder Sanghera before: the founder of Karma Nirvana, [an organization] with a view to createsupport project […]

  14. carolyn says:

    I wish there was some way to know how much of forced marriage/honor killing prevails in USA, Canada. How mush honor killing is there in India, Bangladash, Pakistan etc. It sounds so medieval but I guess its 21st century.

  15. carolyn says:

    I wish there was some way to know how much of forced marriage/honor killing prevails in USA, Canada. How mush honor killing is there in India, Bangladash, Pakistan etc. It sounds so medieval but I guess its 21st century.

  16. ItsMe says:

    What kind of ass hat comment was that Sham? What are you a 12 year old Noob? I am still trying to figure out why you were such a snide shithead to her. Bleh dumb ass Desi's no wonder our progress always stunted can't get past our own insecurities.