Forced marriages in Europe: “Feminists prefer to look the other way”

On May 20, the Abbas sisters, Pakistanis and residents of Spain, were tortured and brutally murdered for his own family. Urooj and Anisa, 21 and 24 years old respectively, traveled to their country of origin with the intention of divorcing their cousins, with whom they were forced to marry two years before, so that they could move to live in Europe. The event, which has shocked its neighbors in the Catalan town of Tarrasa, is no exception. Called ‘honor killings’ and sometimes they occur within our borders.

“It happens with some frequency. These things happen in Europe because we don’t have too many keys to understand what happens within immigrant communities“, he explains to LD the professor of sociology at the University of Oviedo Hans Peter Van Den Broek. Although they do not always end with the worst of luck, it is a reality that hundreds of women are raped and harassed within their own homes. We are not only talking about forced marriages, but also about genital mutilation or control of virginity.

Meanwhile, the West looks the other way and feminists are silent. That is the general norm -with honorable exceptions- and it is what defenders of women’s rights denounce, such as Shirin Muse, activist of Afghan-Pakistani origin who has become a world leader in the fight against marital bondage. “We tend to think that this only happens in African countries or Arab countries, but this affects us, who are here in Europeright under your nose,” he asserts in LD.

Shirina’s story

She knows what she’s talking about, she narrowly escaped a forced marriage. “When I was born, my family expected me to marry my cousin. And this expectation was maintained in time until the moment when I turned 18″, she recounts during the interview. But Shirin Musa was fortunate that her parents moved from Pakistan to the Netherlands when she was only 6 months old.

Who knows what would have happened if they had continued to live in their country. It seems logical to think that the fact that they were in Europe gave her a more favorable environment when it came to fighting against a future that seemed predestined and that would lead her to marry someone she did not want. “I was strong enough to say no. I talked to my family and told them I didn’t want to marry my cousin,” she says with relief.

“Fortunately, my family understood it, but I have friends in the Netherlands, from the same environment, whose family had the same hope and many of them married the people their family wanted“, he warns. It is clear that not all suffer the same fate, even if they live in a European country. Forced marriages are the order of the day.

In Europe, too

Calculating how often this happens in Europe is almost impossible. I know they count only the cases of women who denounce it. In this sense, Catalonia is at the head of the communities with the most forced marriages in Spain. The regional police have detected 59 of these links since 2018.

“It’s very difficult to have the numbers,” says Shirin, “these things happen within families and many girls do not dare to report it.” “Not only is a marriage against your will, also if you want to separate and they don’t let you. So you are in a situation of marital bondage, “he highlights.

“In Europe, we tend to think that we have all the rights and all kinds of freedoms, but this is not true for everyone,” insists the activist. “Within immigrant communities things happen such as forced marriage, marital bondage, genital mutilation or virginity control,” he exclaims.

That is why he has turned this fight into his reason for living and decided to found Femmes for freedom, which fights for the rights and freedoms of women, especially those of bicultural origin who face situations of violence or sexual oppression. The fundamental objective of the foundation is that the people they help can get emancipated.

The silence of feminism

Shirin does not hesitate to slap European feminists and in particular Spanish feminists who have decided to ignore the existence of this reality. Something undeniable in view of her resounding silence. “There is a lot of fear of stigmatizing immigrant communities and in particular to muslim communitiesHans Peter points out.

“There are feminists who prefer to look the other way and they only defend the rights – let’s say – of native women. Other feminists are very obsessed with the veil, they want to remove the veil from us and they think that this is the most important thing. But there are much more important issues, such as forced marriage, genital mutilation, or that obsession with virginity,” the activist denounces.

“That should be talked about more… If you don’t talk to us, if you do not defend our rights, you are also incurring an exclusion“, she highlights. “Now there is a lot of talk about inclusion, but if you only criticize racism or xenophobia, and you do not understand what is happening within our communities… If you do not defend the rights and freedoms of women within immigrant communities , you’re not being inclusive,” he insists.

culture is no excuse

In any case, she is an advocate that it is better “less policies of inclusion and more of emancipation”. For Shirin, the term integration should only be used for people who have recently arrived in Europe, but she emphasizes that second or third generation immigrants “have to emancipate themselves within society” and -therefore- “have to speak the language well in order to enter the labor market, they have to be aware of what the laws are and they have to know what the consequences are if they violate women’s rights.

We have to prevent them from being in a bubble within their own community and that they do not have enough contacts with the rest of society” because this influences, for example, “on the issue of violence against women.”What we can never tolerate is that extreme cultural relativism“, he asserts, “knowing that this type of violence happens within immigrant communities and looking the other way because we believe it is part of their culture“.

Shirin Musa wants to make it very clear that most of the women in her community who, like her, live in Europe want to be one of the women. “We are European women, who want to have the same rights,” she asserts. Cultural excuses are worthless, nothing justifies the violence that is exercised against them. “I hope that from now on, in Europe and also in Spain, the people who dictate the policies listen to our voice“. He complains that they only talk to their leaders, who are always men.

More details in the interview video.


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