Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Saga of the Summer Wedding

with 4 comments

Well, this is interesting.  I just published the title of this post with no post in it.

It’s not eight o’clock in the morning, and I’m already not operating on all eight cylinders.

Whatever–back to business.

The big news story around here yesterday concerned a small plane that crashed into two houses just outside Tweed Airport in East Haven.

The two houses caught on fire, there were at least two (now estimated to be four) people dead–on the whole, it actually qualified as a real news story. 

Under ordinary circumstances, I wouldn’t bring it up.  It qualifies as a real news story, but it isn’t a very interesting one.  It’s the kind of thing that’s going to happen if people insist on having small private planes, which is why I don’t ride in small private planes, and why I’ve never had a fantasy of owning one.

It wasn’t the plane crash that caught my attention yesterday, but another story billboarded on the same page.

And that  page was not, as you would expect, one of my local news station pages.  It was the news page of the BBC online.

This is what we’ve come to:  I have to get news of an event taking place not 50 miles away from a source in London.

Well, I don’t have to.  But I check the BBC five or six times a day, and I check the locals only twice.

The other story on the BBC page, the one that got my attention, had to do with attempts by authorities in England and Wales to “do something” about the problem of forced marriages.

Forced  marriages are, of course, illegal already in England and Wales, but the problem consists of immigrant parents who take their children back to Pakistan or India or wherever and then force those children to marry the family’s choice.

 These children are only children in the modern Western sense–meaning most of them are at least into puberty–but they are also very young, with most of them being under the age of 16.

And, of course, most of  them are girls, although the article didn’t say so.  Taking the daughter back to Pakistan to marry her off as soon as possible is one of the solutions Muslim families have come up with for the problem of girls growing up to be “Westernized,” meaning to having their own ideas about how to run their sex lives.

What the people who want to “do something” about this problem is to enact legislation in England and Wales that does what legislation in Scotland already does do:  gives the government the right to bring criminal prosecutions against parents who force their children into marriages abroad.

The idea is that girls who have been taken abroad and forced to marry some old goat the family thinks is safe would, on their return to England, tell their teachers or doctors that they had been forced and the teachers or doctors would contact the police, who would investigate.

This is the kind of problem I’d find easier to think about if I knew more of the specifics than I do.

Generally, I am opposed to extraterritorial prosecutions–the idea that if an act is illegal in your country, you should be able to punish your citizens for it if they commit such an act in another country, where it may be entirely legal.

In this specific case, there may be a way around that, although it wouldn’t allow criminal prosecutions.

What England and Wales could do, perfectly legitimately, would be to  make it illegal for anybody in their territories to be married under a certain age.  If a couple came to England or Wales married in Pakistan where one or both of the parties was under a certain age, the government could refuse to recognize that such a marriage existed, and any sex between the partners would result in charges of and prosecutions for child sexual abuse.

My guess is that that sort of thing would dampen the enthusiasm of Pakistani men for such arrangements, especially since some of the lure of these unions is that they make it much easier for the Pakistani men to get the right to live and work in England and Wales.

This is not what Scotland has done, and I’m not sure how what they’ve done actually works out there.

The  idea is that very  young girls, forced into marriages they don’t want, will be both willing and able to report those  marriages to the authorities, knowing as they did so that such a report could put their parents into prison, possibly for years.

I wonder how much reporting actually happens.  Children from far less traditional cultures often fight tooth and nail against having their parents exposed to authorities even in cases of horrifying physical abuse. 

I would think the visceral family loyalty that drives that kind of thing would be even stronger in families where the culture dictates that family loyalty comes before just about anything.

The other possible scenario is that teachers or doctors or school nurses or whoever become aware of such a marriage when it has not been reported, therefore starting an investigation.

This would result in a case closer to the kind of thing I suggested before, although not so solidly legal.

But I’m  not sure it matters whether somebody uses my idea or the idea the governments in England, Wales and Scotland seem to be running with.

The real problem is going to be that the only way to not only pass such laws but enforce them with any rigorousness requires everybody involved to be willing to admit to one basic proposition:  a culture that preserves t he rights of girls and women to choose who they marry and to postpone marriage  until after they’ve been t horoughly educated is superior to a culture that does not.

That “superior to” thing is very important.  It’s also a direct co ntradiction of the code of multiculturalism that underpins a lot of laws already on the books in England, Wales, and Scotland.

I would look at the passing of such laws as good news, a harbinger of the end of the mentally defective relativism of so much of racial and ethnic politics in the last thirty years.

I would, except that the BBC article I read spent so much time and effort NOT using words like “Muslim” and “girls” and anything else that might give the game away.

A Martian come down to read that article in complete ignorance of 21st century politics and religion might have thought the BBC was talking about nefarious Swedes spiriting their sons away to Stockholm to be hitched to middle-aged harridans with too many face lifts.

The activists trying to get the laws  passed insist that this is a “human rights issue,” on the apparent assumption that “human rights” trump culture.

But “human rights” are Western, and they arose in secularizing Christian societies.

If you can’t say so, and maintain the superiority of the resultant culture over other kinds, you also can’t get the other kinds to change their ways.

Written by janeh

August 10th, 2013 at 9:16 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses to 'Saga of the Summer Wedding'

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  1. It doesn’t surprise me that people are unable to see that human rights aren’t particularly universal, but are derived from a particular culture or who don’t realize that all but the most desperate girls are likely to choose their parents over the police in the face of an unwanted marriage. There’s precious little logic among humankind. I’m rather depressed about this at the moment, having just read two local stories. One of them is about a man who wants to increase inclusiveness by removing religious symbols from a local Catholic hospital presently run by the local health board under an agreement with the religous order in question. I don’t see how you become more inclusive, much less more diverse, by eliminating the symbols dear to one group. And then there was the story about Eid which included an interview with a local woman who converted to Islam after a long search for a religion that “suited her personality”. I still can’t quite figure out why you would choose a religion, or any belief system or philosophy for that matter, on the basis of how well it matched your personality.


    10 Aug 13 at 7:51 pm

  2. Activists insisting that we do something about foreign countries which violate the “human rights” of their citizens reminds me of the 18th and 19th century Christian missionaries who wanted to bring the blessings of civilization to the heathens.

    Weren’t we taught to call that colonialism and imperialism and consider it a bad thing?


    10 Aug 13 at 7:56 pm

  3. Some of the most ardent proponants I’ve ever met of enforcing local laws and human rights beliefs overseas are also strong anti-colonialists – and they never see the irony.

    I can understand the temptation. There is terrible suffering in many foreign countries, our own local problems seem less acute and interesting, and often many foreigners appeal for help and/or intervention. And yet, the risks and very high probability of failure of waltzing into completely foreign territory with some cure-all solution (and possibly force to make it stick) has been very well-known for many years. I was warned about it before I went overseas, many years ago Modern aid groups often try to work within local conditions and customs rather than risk rejection by overturning them. But we still get people who think it’s different if what’s going on in the foreign country offends them in some particular way.


    10 Aug 13 at 8:06 pm

  4. Hmm. Well, of course the ruling class expects children to inform on their families. It’s one of the founding principles of the modern centralized state, whether practiced by Stalin, Mao or Janet Reno, and dates well back. Can you say “make our students ashamed of their fathers?”

    But it seems to me the critical paragraph is here:

    “The real problem is going to be that the only way to not only pass such laws but enforce them with any rigorousness requires everybody involved to be willing to admit to one basic proposition: a culture that preserves the rights of girls and women to choose who they marry and to postpone marriage until after they’ve been thoroughly educated is superior to a culture that does not.”

    Three things.
    1. Yes, of course, “multiculturalism” hopelessly undercuts their efforts to turn children into informants, and they may really be too stupid to realize it. There are days I think even hereditary ruling classes may have been brighter than our present bunch.
    2. No, it is NOT necessary to believe or prove the superiority of this or that culture. All that is necessary is to be willing to say and make stick “this is the culture of Britain. If you wish to reside permanently in the British Isles, you must adhere to that culture, and leave your old one behind.” But of course, multiculturalism undercuts that one, too. And if there is no essential core of British culture and consequent morality to defend, then marrying off unwilling girls to Pathan bandits is just a legal offense, like unpaid parking tickets.
    3. Our ruling class does believe in cultural superiority. The catch is that they believe in the superiority of THEIR culture, not a common culture they share with the working classes, or even the small businesspeople of their countries, and this is a thing they dare not say openly, even today, in the West. But it also goes to their concern for certain types of education–some of which would be more honestly called indoctrination–and their expectation of suitably educated children becoming informants. The ruling class has relatively few children and reproduces itself by converting the children of others.

    That’s not the only respect in which they resemble vampires, of course.


    11 Aug 13 at 11:50 am

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