Tuesday, 1 October 2013
Forced to love
It's bad enough when they're similar ages, but even worse when the bride is still a child and the bridegroom maybe decades older, and the girl has very little idea what she's getting into or how she might be treated. It may seem quite romantic until she's faced with the reality of an uncaring husband.
Noora Al Shami's story is horrific, but I imagine all too typical of what a forced marriage can really mean in practice. Her husband treated her like a sex object, like a toy, and it was only after ten years of constant physical attacks that she managed to escape and rebuild her life by training as a teacher.
Of course it's not so long ago that British couples were forced into shotgun weddings by parents embarrassed by an "out of wedlock" pregnancy, and many of those marriages were also disastrous. Thankfully attitudes to unmarried parents are now more relaxed and this home-grown variety of forced marriage has ended.
But elsewhere the custom is alive and well, with many declared and undeclared reasons for marrying someone off. It can be to provide citizenship, to attract a bridal dowry, to increase the population, to resolve tribal feuds, or for the sake of family pride. The obvious potential for conflict, violence and misery between two people who turn out to be incompatible is routinely ignored. Likewise the likelihood that a strong and arrogant older man will treat his young wife like a doormat.
Even a relationship based on love and affection can be hard enough to maintain in the face of everyday problems and challenges. The chances of a forced marriage being successful must be very low indeed. Yet utterly reluctant girls and women - and presumably some of the men - are still pushed into it by determined families unconcerned with the possible consequences.
There must be many women like Noora, trapped in dismal marriages, who at times wish they'd never been born at all.
Pic: Not Noora Al Shami