Forced marriage is an abuse of basic human rights. This very well organized crime is still undergoing in many different cultures, and continents around the world, such as; Africa, the Middle East and parts of South and East Asia. Forcing someone to marry is a direct criminal offense in only six countries. Most people believe, once it is out of sight, it is out of mind. Little do we know that there are people out there, who are forced against their wills, condemned to a vicious circle of poverty and powerlessness, perhaps even driven to an early death right under our noses. Our ignorance make us blind. What is generally referred to as a sacred act of matrimony, for some is a forever binding contract to ever lasting torture. A young woman who grew up in the western part of the world explains how she was set free, even though her freedom came at quite a price.
The process of selling my soul to the devil himself began when I was 13 years old. Like some Asian girls I was forced to be aware of marriage from a young age. One of my aunts had a family friend with two sons who were 10-15 years my senior. One summer my aunt arrived alone at our home bearing gifts. The more she brought with her, the wealthier she seemed. The biggest concern for my family, was keeping up appearances. Sometimes I found it difficult to perceive the kind, honest and peaceful Indian culture that they were suppose to be a part of.
In Indian culture cast is a very important factor when marriage is concerned. My family was from the highest cast, so they were at the top of the food chain. The big fish. They spent their time constantly belittling and frowning upon everyone beneath them. I was delegated to marry into the same cast, to maintain a pure bloodline in the family. I was suppose to set an example for my younger sister. The main reason they were marrying me young was to save money. When an Indian family marry their daughter off they have to provide the son in law’s family with dowry, however, the younger I was the less money they would have to waste. This whole process is like giving someone a brand new car and paying them for driving it.
My parents, especially my father was a very aggressive individual. My family had ridiculously no respect for me, that is why I think they were relieved to get rid of me. In Asian culture giving birth to a daughter is sometimes frowned upon, because, unlike having a son, she would be unable to carry the family name on to future generations. My siblings were never mistreated, or forced to conform, it was just me. I had one younger brother and sister. My younger brother was treated like a Prince, they cherished him and attended to his every beck and call. After all he was the family’s heirloom. I had a very good relationship with my sister, she was very loving, brave and extremely intelligent. I would never forget that she didn’t let her disability control her life, or affect her in any way. She gave me strength and hope when times were grave.
After my aunt left, nothing was mentioned of the arrangements that were being made. I could sense what was happening in the change of my parents behavior. My mother had this wicked look on her face, basking in her evil intentions. I realized that I had to do something before it was too late. Before I was doomed. I gathered the courage to speak to my mother hoping she would have some regularity in her insane mind. Just when I thought things might change for the better, everything became apparent when my dad came home. She must have spoken to him about my despicable outrage. This ended in violent blows.
A few days later I found out they had booked flights to India for the entire family. I was fucked. It was planned for after Christmas. There wasn’t a single living creature to whom I could have confessed my fears to. My dad had already threatened me in a mad rage with physical abuse, if I ever dared to tell a soul. Christmas came, and time was up. When we arrived in India, I became very miserable. I felt like I was being consumed into a black hole, that my parents had conjured out of thin air. Feelings of depression became conscious to me and thoughts of suicide were residing in my mind. I thought it would have been a solution to my impending fate, to end everything once and for all. My parents had arranged for the marriage to take place in January.
I felt completely out of place in a country, where I would spend the rest of my eternity. My parents never let me out of their sight, in fear that I may have eloped, which would have tarnished their honor and pride. During this time my younger sister had become very ill and spent most of her time in hospital. My parents thought that her health would not pose a problem and underestimated the degree of her illness. Within one week her well-being deteriorated. She had developed meningitis septicemia, which advanced to her brain and she fell into a coma. After a few days she passed away. Her death was very unexpected and shocking to everyone. This deeply disorientated me, I felt like someone had ripped my stomach out and turned it into smithereens. My world came crashing to my feet.
My sister was one of the very few people in my life that I had trusted. Unfortunately for my family due to my sister’s sudden death it was seen inauspicious in their culture to compose a marriage when grieving. The family of the groom had come to pay their respects. I remember having to sit in front of him whilst he stared at me through beady eyes. In that particular moment I felt like I was nothing more than an object, a piece of chewing gum, waiting to be chewed only to be spat out. They had decided that there was nothing more they could do and discontinued the marriage. They wanted to avoid any questions from friends of the family about my sudden disappearance, right after my sister had died. Although it was one of the hardest things I went through, in her death she gave me a new life. I think people should be more aware of how the cultural chains of civilization can condemn naive and innocent young people to an eternal misery. I was one of the lucky ones. Many people don’t receive a jail free card on a silver platter. For me it wasn’t easy, it cost me my sister’s life.