September 07, 2009
“For a long time this used to be considered a cultural thing,’’ said Fatima Lalem, who is in charge of gender equality at Paris City Hall. “Something that happens, but that people don’t look at too closely.’’ Over the past year, France has begun to tackle the problem more aggressively. Last November, Paris City Hall published a guide advising officials on detecting forced marriages.
But former victims and activists, many of them second- or third-generation immigrants working in France’s multicultural suburbs, said such moves were unlikely to help women married off abroad, or scared into silence.
Zeliha Alkis, who works for Elele, a nonprofit organization that mainly helps women of Turkish origin, cites the example of a young woman of Turkish descent who was married to a Turkish man at a Paris town hall this summer. On her wedding night, she was locked in a room, and when she protested, her grandmother tied her up so the marriage could be consummated.
In many other cases, the women are married in the family’s country of origin. Reasons include the family wanting to ensure the woman marries a candidate deemed suitable, settling a debt, and procuring a visa for the groom. Unlike arranged marriage, which can be consensual, these weddings are performed against the women’s will.
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