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« What is going on in Canada? | Main | Re: Forced Marriages and Secret Abortions »

June 24, 2008

Forced Marriages and Secret Abortions

Pakistan I read the story on the front page of Sunday's Washington Post about the British diplomat who rescues young Muslim girls who are flown from Great Britain to Pakistan for the purpose of forcing them into marriage. I'm glad  the diplomat is doing this, but the picture of one rescued 17-year-old, back in London with her boyfriend, made me wonder how the girl's life will ultimately turn out.

Will she engage in premarital sex, like most other British teens? Will she end up with an illegitimate baby? Will she end up living on the streets? Will her life ultimately turn out better because she was rescued from a forced marriage--or worse?

While I don't approve of forced marriages, I do have some sympathy with outraged Muslim parents who chafe at official interference in what they consider to be a private family matter. I can't help but think of Christian parents in America who get just as angry when representatives of the state (such as public school teachers) take underage girls for secret abortions, without their parents' consent. The British diplomat believes she is protecting the rights of the young girls she rescues. So do those who think young girls are entitled to end their pregnancies through abortion.

Christian parents believe they are protecting their daughters from a great moral evil, and exploitation by abortionists. Muslim parents also think they are protecting their daughters from the state--and from the moral evils they fear their daughters will be exposed to if they are not safely swept into marriage at a young age.

Again--I believe it's wrong to force anyone into marriage. But I'm not sure the Brits are freeing the rescued girls into a better life. And I think Christians will have a hard time explaining why they think it's okay to interfere with family decisions when it comes to Muslims, but not when it comes to Christians.

I'm still thinking this through, but I thought I'd throw it out there for the rest of you to play with.

(Image © The Washington Post)

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Jason Taylor

Context is context and some forced marriages are worse then others. For instance among someone of high birth one might consider that to be the price of priveledge. Marie Antoinette obeyed her orders-because that was how the game was played.
Just something to think about. However it is historians musings and irrelevant to the case which is not about princesses marrying for the sake of international order at best and the interests of their family's empire at worst.
In the case mentioned, the British diplomat is clearly right. For one thing the law against abduction is a reasonably just law, and it is hardly one that should be modified to accomedate cultural quirks. After all we too have a custom: when people burn widows we hang them. Likewise when people kidnap girls we put them in jail.
As for Christians being inconsistent, I don't think we should worry. For one thing there is the abstract point that consistency cannot be absolute: it is better to be wrong once and right once then wrong twice. Obviously we should not deliberatly contradict ourselves but there are few social issues that are so clear that having paradoxical opinions about specific cases is a contradiction.
In any case to make any thing in human life absolute is fanaticism. Saying one should respect the family's autonomy is not saying that said autonomy should be unlimited. Indeed it could be argued that one of the main purposes of the State is as a check to the family's autonomy. In places without an effective State, every family must behave as a State of it's own and the only check to violence is the threat of blood-feud. The purpose of the State is in that view to take the power of blood-feud into a theoretically objective body.
Likewise the Mafia also demand family autonomy. No one objects to interfereing with that.
Most principles guiding our ideological opinion must remain guidelines and not dogma. Otherwise we are not only committing idolatry, we are at best being impractical and at worst putting politics above humanity. Family autonomy is good but it is not unlimited.
In any case, would we really conceed to a Christian as much power over their children as Moslem parents are claiming? It doesn't seem all that likly.


Yeees, but we want to draw boundaries carefully. Eve didn't have a choice, neither did Rebbecca and many others. Is God a rapist? (or a statutory rapist considering Mary?) I don't think so. That being the case, seeing that this argument can be drawn to things we don't mean, we need to describe more accurately.

Arranged marriages have been the norm throughout history. Dating is a very new phenomenon.

Jason Taylor

Hassidics, and Sikhs and other cultures that have arranged marriage, allow a veto for the couple. Tolerating abduction does go beyond the line.

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