Cultured pressured arranged marriage. In Kyrgyzstan, it is estimated that there are approximately 12,000 women are offered as non-consensual brides per year
Considering that it’s currently the holy month of Ramadan right now.
I figured now would be a better time than ever.
To discuss the very real and underlying issues that exist for young ethnic Muslim women.
Living in a postmodern society.
There’s a very fine line between culture and religion.
Unfortunately, that line can be walked all over by ethnic cultures such as mine.
I was born and raised in the UK whilst my parents originate from Sylhet, Bangladesh, which is a Muslim-dominated country.
With Tradition, Patriarchy Often Follows
South Asian cultures such as the Bengali culture is known for their traditional values and with tradition, patriarchy often follows.
In a culture where women marrying early is as common as a YouTuber apology video.
It’s arguably understandable as to why I may resent my background a little.
I love my religion however, I can’t exactly say the same for my ethnic culture.
There are many instances where religious values can often be misconstrued by culture.
In Islam, it is not compulsory to get married.
Forced marriage is strictly prohibited whilst in South Asian or Middle Eastern.
Cultures Pressured Arranged marriages
In Kyrgyzstan, it is estimated that there are approximately 12,000 cases of kidnapped women.
Offered as non-consensual brides per year (Abdurasulov, 2012).
Though this issue is very extreme in lower economically developed countries.
Similar cases such as these can also occur in more developed countries such as the UK.
Studies have shown.
Approximately 70% of UK forced marriage victims are Pakistani/Bangladeshi backgrounds (Refuge, 2008).
A British-Bengali Perspective
The concept of an arranged marriage originally is meant to be a very sacred thing that you have the choice of doing.
Though it is encouraged in Islam, you have no obligation to get an arranged marriage.
However, this is where culture rears its head.
It is socially expected in Islamic south Asian cultures to want to receive an arranged marriage.
To not want marriage at all, is simply unheard of.
Shunned By Local Community and Family
By refusing, you’d be making yourself vulnerable.
To the chance of being shunned by both the local community and your family.
As a little girl, an arranged marriage was something my friends and I (who were also of the same background) would look forward to and giggle about.
Because we’d be told by the grown-ups that it’s something that we will have do when we’re older and that it would be an exciting thing.
Of course, as I grew older, along with a few of those friends, we started realizing that we didn’t have much say in the matter.
Freedom of Choice Gone
As a student, you’d count your blessings that you still had some time left before you were of ‘marrying age’ however once you’ve graduated, ding!
Your independence is suddenly put on a rapidly approaching expiration date.
Unsurprisingly, women get the worst end of the deal when it comes to an arranged marriage in the Bengali culture.
She would typically have to uproot her entire life to accommodate her husband.
For example, if the bride was living and working in London all her life but her arranged marriage partner lives up in Belfast.
Then it would be expected that she would have to quit her job in London.
To instead move into her in-laws’ home with her new husband in Belfast and instead find a new job there.
It would rarely be vice-versa.
Subcultures Expectations for Women
In British-Bengali subcultures, women are expected to get married anywhere from 19 to 24 years of age whilst men can marry much later.
So as you can imagine, after graduating from university.
I felt a greater sense of pressure to succeed at a faster rate than other career-wise.
That way, when the matter of my own arranged marriage arose.
I could confidently say no as it’s not something I’ve wanted for myself.
I’m very much a solo person and wholeheartedly believe I can still be dutiful Muslim without being married.
A Path That Will Give Me the Option to Choose
But I understood that my family would be unlikely to agree with that.
At least if I’ve achieved some level of success in my profession then I’d be self-sufficient enough in the face of disinheritance.
Back when I’d be applying to graduate jobs.
I would disregard listings that I felt would have fewer progression opportunities even if it sounded interesting.
I just didn’t have the luxury to explore those options as others did, which is kind of sad when looking back now.
It’s my life.
Shouldn’t I have Enjoyed More?
So why did I have to account and plan for so much when I should’ve been enjoying my early 20’s instead.
It’s something that my close friends and I have sighed over so many times that we’ve lost count.
To clarify, arranged marriage is not something that should be labeled as negative.
There are people who do want an arranged marriage, I know a few couples personally who are very happy in marriages that had been arranged for them.
But, if you feel that you’re getting pressured into a marriage that you don’t particularly want — that’s your cue to say no.
Nobody has the right to decide what you get to do with your life even if it’s your family. This applies to any situation.
If You Need Help Reach Out
I know that it can be difficult and sometimes this is easier said than done but remember, there is aid out there because you aren’t alone in this.
If you need help, reach out.
You wouldn’t feel hesitant to ask for help from a lifeguard if you were drowning so why would you if you’re mentally struggling?
Freedom isn’t something that should be compromised because we’re women or of an ethnic minority.
There are too many young Muslim women out there giving up their voice because they’re too afraid to go against the grain.
Resigning to a written fate is the cruelest thing we can do for ourselves.
As that would mean we sacrificed our happiness for the sake of following the status quo.
Lina is a generic office monkey who loves to read, write, and ponder in her free time. How about we tumble down the rabbit hole together, eh?