*Disclaimer: This is a sensitive and extremely important topic on forced marriages. If you’re uncomfortable with reading about extremism please continue to browse the blog.
I first heard of Jasvinder Sanghera last year when she was featured on the Guardian. I was immediately drawn to her inspiring story and ordered her book Shame right away. At the age of 14, her mum sat her down at her family home in Derby and showed her a photograph of a man in his 20s who, she was told, she had been promised to when she was just eight. “My mother said, ‘You’re going to marry him. You don’t have a choice. I had to do it at your age, and you’re going to have to do it now.’ She said this is our tradition: it’s what we do in our culture.”
Excerpt from her book, Shame:
“A few months after Mum brought me home from Prakash’s house the subject of my marriage came up. I was in the living-room doing my homework when she showed me a picture, ever so causally. ‘What do you think of him?’ she said. ‘Do you think he’s nice? He’s the man you’re going to marry’.”
“I tried to put it to the back of my mind and get on with my life, but every so often Mum would mention it. At first she was always light-hearted and jokey, but over the weeks she became more insistent. She kept saying I should be happy that she had found me such a good husband and that it was my duty to marry him. As the weeks went by I got more and more frightened. I kept thinking of my sisters and the bruises I’d seen on them; I remember them sobbing as they told my parents how their husbands abused them; I remembered Mum saying, ‘This is how men are, it is your duty to look after him.'”
Reading this book
I really enjoyed reading this book but also found it difficult because of the emotional roller coaster it took me through. It was gripping and every page made me want to carry on reading more, but often I would stop, roll over on the bed and just take in what I had read. The excerpt from above ignited one of those moments. I was highly recommend this book to those interested in this topic or those who can relate in some form.
Of course when you read something like that, you often relate it back to your own life. What if that happened to me? What would I do? Well if I’m honest, I would do the same as Jasvinder and run away from home. The very thought of being forced into a marriage makes me sick to my core, and hearing the way her sisters were treated it’s truly awful. The generation gap plays a huge role in this. Her parents came over from India with those ideologies and they were never adapted to fit into their new western lifestyle; which is very common among families with immigrant parents (but obviously not ALL families).
Forced marriages and honour based abuse
Taking everything that she went through, Jasvinder turned her pain and experience into something that helps other woman. Commonly Asian women who are sent abroad to marry a stranger and forced into a marriage they don’t want. In addition to this she fights against honour based abuse. (Literally hurts my soul that this happens, but it happens so often). When parents would rather, and actually, kill their children if they don’t marry who they choose for them or if they want to marry for love.
It breaks my heart, especially as there’s so many people out there who have fallen in love. Fallen in love with someone outside of their caste, culture or religion and are afraid to tell their parents. I receive emails from girls about this every week, scared of how their parents will react. It’s scary because if my parents were extremists – they could have done some of the things these girls go through. I’m SO lucky that they love me unconditionally and have accepted Mark as their son-in-law to be (once he pulls his finger out!).
I know of some girls who have dated outside of their faith and once their parents found them – then they take them to India and force them to get married. And you know what happens after, they get divorced, the husband has got his green card to the UK and it’s done. Other instances, the parents force their child to get married and if they don’t obey, the parent threatens to commit suicide. It really is astonishing that parents think they’re being ‘good parents’ by forcing their children into a life of misery.
Karma Nirvana is a UK registered Charity that supports victims and survivors of Forced Marriage and Honour Based Abuse.
It was named in the hope that the work it seeks to undertake would make a positive impact on the lives of individuals who would by our involvement achieve a sense of peace and ultimately enlightenment.
Set up by Jasvinder in 1993, not looking back since, she’s thousands of individuals all across the U.K. They have a helpline, offer training and support to those who seek it. You can also help by donating on their website or by following the below:
Donate by Texting KNUK10 £5 to 70070