BY MUHAMMAD MAJID BASHIR
A bilateral offence
Everywhere in the world, marriage without consent or against the consent of the boy or girl is illegal. All over the world, every religion, customary and conventional law, have declared marriage as a civil contract. However, we deliberately neglect the prerequisite of a civil contract that is; a free will to contract of the parties. Therefore a civil contract without free will is void and revocable under law. Religiously speaking, Islam also does not allow forced marriages and it’s an offence under Pakistani laws
The Muslim community has many reservations on the campaign of forced marriages. They believe that the parents have a right to decide the marriages of their child. As a cultural norm, they accept that under the prevailing circumstance in EU, UK and other foreign countries, the concept of a love marriage of their daughters with a stranger or non-Muslim is an intolerable notion. They believe that reaction is natural.
Sanctity of culture, tradition and religious rituals are sustainable factors, which cannot be softened without education and consistent interaction with modern civilization. The Muslim families settle in the UK temporarily for economic and livelihood purposes, but their children grow up with a different mind-set. Muslim families are not responding too well to their children’s response to the social and cultural environment of western foreign countries.
The parents, particularly those in the Muslim community residing abroad should review their approach. Knowing the culture of the West, parents should regularly discuss these issues confidently with their children so they can understand each other’s point of views, feelings and fears. This may pave the way to a mutual decision between the parents and children, who can make up their mind together while settling what issues, may arise, thereby avoiding commitments with others.
Forced marriages are common in Pakistan. The menace does not only affect people in Pakistan, but also puts to suffering, people residing outside Pakistan, who are settled in foreign countries. They marry their sons and daughters against their consent to members of their family in Pakistan for various purposes, mostly to help get members of their family citizenship of the foreign country. Another possible purpose behind this could be family settlement of properties and mutual benefits of involved parties.
According to the British government, forced marriage is defined as one in which either one or both parties are forced to marry after being subjected to physical or mental torture or being victims to financial threats. According to the data provided by the British government the number of forced marriage between Pakistani and British people is abnormally higher than those between British citizens and foreigners from other countries.
Knowing the culture of the West, parents should regularly discuss these issues confidently with their children so they can understand each other’s point of views, feelings and fears
In Pakistan, several young girls/women are forced into wed-lock against their consent. Pakistan is a Muslim country, and Islam gives full rights to girls to marry as per their own discretion, still we fail to follow Islam, and this injustice against women is continuing. The Constitution of Pakistan prohibits under-age marriages. No boy under 18 and no girl under 16 are allowed to marry. Unfortunately, the laws are only enacted, but no one is willing to act upon these laws which can protect women and young girls.
The British Interior Ministry and foreign office formed a Forced Marriage Unit. The British Government had introduced legislation against expatriate parents who force their daughters to marry according to the parents’ choice. The plan was to make forced marriage a criminal offence. In this context, the family members of the other party to the marriage would automatically be charged under abetment in forced marriages. Because parents from both sides intentionally aid to prepare this conspiracy.
The administrative authorities (Union Councils) and public servants who register the marriages and supervise marriage ceremonies (Nikka Khuwa-person administering the marriage rituals of contract) also fall within the ambit of abetment if they do not follow the rules of Nikkah (Contract). The public servants can become an interface in forced marriages and play an instrumental role in ensuring that girls are not under- age and they are being contracted in marriages out of their own free will. In case they have any cause to believe that an abuse of the Marriage Act or the marriage registration rules is taking place, they can make it a point to report to the police. This will help to curb the practice and punish anyone who violates the laws.
The new legislation will help the Muslim community living in UK, particularly Pakistanis who make up the majority of the Muslim community. This legislative move however can no longer be effective without parallel legislation in Pakistan. Pakistan must move to correct the situation and cooperate with the British government in overcoming problems of introversion within the Pakistani community residing in UK. This can be done by improving the laws in Pakistan relating to marital coercion, which is expressly banned by Islam.
These incidents mostly take place due to parental influence and fiat. If the girl does dare to get married without parental permission, she faces maltreatment and is also sometimes hunted down by her parents and subjected to punishments in various forms including honour killing, stove burning and sudden “accidental” death and disappearances.
To effectively control this menace at the state level, Pakistan and UK both under treaty series should sign an agreement on Forced marriage. Both countries’ domestic laws should prohibit forced marriage and treat the practice as a criminal offence. The guidelines and rules should also be designed to enforce this agreement through relevant ministries of both the countries. Both the states under this treaty may declare pre-marriage registration compulsory in the respective country. The procedure should follow a prescribed form to be filed while providing an undertaking that the marriage is being solemnized with the free will of the both the parties. This mechanism will frustrate the arrangement of forced marriages from the beginning till the end. The complaints of forcibly married girls to authorities can also be verified in this way.
Courtesy: Daily Pakistan today