White women in forced marriage triangle
The number of long-term relationships between Asian men and white women are increasing year on year. Hooking up with an exotic man is a novelty for many women and in some cases a passionate encounter can turn into sensual love.
But unlike Western society where falling in love is an expression of personal choice, love is deemed as a threat to social networks in Asian society. Even Bollywood films have their heart-rending tales of unrequited love. Love is seen as an unruly force that threatens the arranged marriage system which seeks to reinforce kinship networks, family honour and gender roles. That is why forced marriage is becoming all too prevalent. And the numbers keep rising – in 2010 the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) received 1735 forced marriage reports. The majority involved families of Pakistani, Indian and Bengali origin.
Some Asian parents believe forced marriage is the only way to affirm group boundaries, whilst ensuring the young will never turn their back on the oppressive marriage system and make an independent decision to marry for love. So they force their son’s into marriage with culturally bound women. Understandably men rarely resist the grave pressure put on them to marry. Once trapped in a heart-rending marriage many go on to have children and extend their family.
But what are the consequences of forced marriages for the white women outside the Asian social network? Many continue their love affairs. During the course of my forced marriage research I spoke with a number of white women who had become embroiled in a ‘forced marriage triangle’ involving the men, their wives and the white women. You might say what they do is deplorable – having an affair with a married man. But little is known about the lives of the women.
Tragically white women are tainted by a morally corrupt and shameful discourse spread by all too many Asian families. Scorned and outcast, they are left with little choice but to carry on in secret. Living in effect a bigamous life many women are left feeling guilty and tormented. They live their lives knowing that their forbidden lovers have a duty to maintain a dead marriage to their forced wives. But these women always knew that their lovers would never be able to make honest women out of them. And they love them too much to break up their lover’s marriage. To console themselves they view their loving relationship as “the real thing” whilst they perceive their lover’s forced marriage as burdensome and loveless. So love conquers all and they remain together in a clandestine relationship. But while most mistresses understand and put up with their husbands bigamous lifestyle, their children have little choice but to live constrained and dysfunctional lives. Like their contemptible mothers these illegitimate children are shunned by the Asian community.
It’s clear that the victims of forced marriage are not just the coerced spouse(s). In fact forced marriage has a ripple effect cursing all those involved including the spouses, the mistress and the next generation of both legitimate and illegitimate children. Recognising the harm and suffering caused by forced marriage, the Government finally announced plans to criminalise forced marriage in December of last year. It’s hoped that criminalisation will send out a public message that forced marriage is wrong which will in turn put an end to this appalling practice. Criminalisation may also, inadvertently lead to an increase in mixed marriages where couples no longer marry by force but marry for love.Tagged in: Bollywood, forced marriage, marriage
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