Paul P. Mealing

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Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A necessary law to protect women from an archaic, anachronistic, life-destroying practice

It’s extraordinary that in Australia, in the 21st Century, the Government is proposing an act of Parliament to make it illegal to marry a girl without her consent.

There were parts of this programme that had me shaking, but as teenage girls are becoming better educated their families are becoming more deceiving in arranging unwanted marriages. This programme tells the story of 4 women who dared to take control of their own lives so that they could have a future that was worth living.

What one finds unbelievable is that parents could force their daughters into a life of unhappiness and servitude against their will, obviously unaware of the opportunities they have for realising the potential of their educations.

As Ayaan Hirsi Ali wrote in her autobiography (I reviewed a year ago, March 2010), in some so-called ‘traditional’ cultures, women are never treated as mature adults, who are capable of intellectual and moral autonomy. And whilst, in the West, we find this culpable, it’s only in the last century that women have been given the benefit of the doubt, to put it kindly, that they can live and make decisions independent of men.

As Kerry O’Brien says in his summing up, the stories revealed here are both depressing and inspiring. I find it interesting that one of the girls featured (promised to a cousin in a foreign country at the age of 12, whom she first met on her supposed wedding day at age 17) had turned her father around after stubbornly refusing to recognise 2 marriages (one in Pakistan and one in Australia). He eventually realised (apparently, as he’s not interviewed) that his daughter’s happiness meant more to him than following a centuries-old tradition.

For many people, this is another arrow to fling at Islam, but there are Muslim feminists (I’ve met them) and it is they who can change this cultural relic, as it was changed in our society.

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