Forced marriages cannot be an option

Lablu Kazi | Update:

Sitting in front of my desktop computer, my fingers play with the keyboard and I have something on my mind to share.

It is normal for parents to have anxieties and tension when their children reach the age eligible for marriage. We wonder whether we will find suitable brides or grooms for them. The situation in the US is very different from Bangladesh. Here in the US, traditionally the marriage is between two partners. They know each other, ask their parents for permission to marry, and the guardians arrange the ceremony.

However, the problem is with the more conservative families. They still cannot conceive of 'love marriage,' even though the number of such families is much less than before, around 10 per cent of the Bangladeshi diaspora. But in Bangladesh the situation is completely opposite and arranged marriages, often forced marriage, are common and the most families accept that and are satisfied with the outcome. This does not mean they don't have 'love marriages,' but the couple has to overcome so many hurdles to get permission and acceptance.

In Bangladesh, in recent years there are a lot of improvements in various sectors of health, technology, education and so on. But the freedom of women's choices still remains the same. We still we see young brides being tortured for dowry. It is painful and scary that such things still happen in the ‘civilised world’.

There are so many human rights organisations in Bangladesh and I wonder what they are doing. In my opinion, the best action is to educate the young brides and give them this basic understanding her body is hers and she knows what is the best for her and with whom she should live with for the rest of her life.

I came across a facebook post from Melbourne, Australia, by a young lady of Bangladeshi descent, who wrote, "body is mine, soul is mine and I know whom I have to give, why my parents to interfere in our matters that I cannot marry my man". I agree with her and any Bangladeshi girl should be bold like her to be happily married and enjoy the God-given potential to enjoy life. As parents, we must understand that our children in most cases know better than we think they do. It is they who will be living together with the person of their choice, not us. So why will we interfere? We may give honest opinion, but we should never force our judgment on them.

I have a friend who has a lovely daughter. She fell in love with someone of her choice, but the parents did not agree with their only daughter. Her father listened to the instructions of his rich brothers and arranged her marriage with an unknown person living in a foreign country. The husband took her there, lived there for a while, and then forced her to return. She chose not to and hanged herself. We must learn from this otherwise we have to lose more loved ones like her. I have never seen her, but in imagination I can see her painful face. The question arises in my mind, why did she have to leave this beautiful world so early?

I often think very deeply about the claim of elders that traditional marriages are better. They say they live happily and why will these young people not do the same? The answer probably is that we change, so does society. We have to adjust with the changes. If we fail to do so, that is our weakness. Why should someone else pay for that? Some will claim that they get married and living happily for 50 years. That is true, but others say they have no choice but to accept, as the situation forces them to do so. Modern young men and women are both able to make money and can make choices if things are not going well. They may remain good friends with no hard feelings, but not as husband and wife.

Society is changing and people must adjust for the better.

Please do not arrange early marriage of your daughter, before the age of 18. Allow her to complete early and high school education, that will make her become self-sufficient and please ask your son or daughter if they have their own choice. If they have and it is good, go with it because you want to see them happy. If we could be little more flexible and use our common sense, we might avoid such tragedies as the incident of my friend's young daughter.

* Lablu Kazi lives in New York

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