We're all accustomed to the idea of Muslim girls, even those living in the West, being forced into marriage. This is the subject of much discussion, especially in Europe, with perhaps the fullest analysis in a 2003 study by Hege Storhaug, Feminin integrering (translated into English by Bruce Bower as Human Visas). One notable result was the joint launching in Great Britain (by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Home Office) of the "Forced Marriage Unit" in January 2005.
Today, Stewart Tendler of The Times (London) informs us that more than one third of forced marriages in Great Britain may involve reluctant men. Specifically, the Council of British Pakistanis estimates that this is the case in 38 per cent of forced marriages. Parents might have promised the boys even before their births; or arrangements are made with the parents of girl cousins so as to keep property within a single family. Tendler goes on:
There have also been cases where parents are concerned that their sons are gay, straying into bad company, becoming involved in crime or are going out with a woman from outside the community. Foreign Office officials say that in some cases the men are deceived into flying to India, Pakistan or Bangladesh to see relatives. They find themselves stranded in a rural village, their passports are taken from them and they are placed under extraordinary pressure. British High Commission staff have managed to rescue men after they manage to make contact. In one case, a young man was allowed to go shopping and was then picked up by diplomats waiting in a car.
As police investigate this problem, they face the usual difficulty that the victims - some of them abducted, intimidated, or beaten – are unwilling to give evidence against their families. Home Office officials are thinking about opening a refuge for bridegrooms.
Comment: The existence of this issue means there is yet one more obstacle to the successful integration of Muslims in Western countries. It prompts this observer to wonder how many more such issues lie hidden from view. (March 21, 2005)
Aug. 12, 2008 update: In Denmark, two shelters for men (in Kolding and Copenhagen) and the National Counseling for Foreigners report that immigrant men are seeking help to cope with forced marriage. One counselor says that the men suffer threats of violence that may even be worse than that facing women.
Nov. 7, 2008 update: "Immigrant Men Are Forced to Marry, Too" reads the title of a major piece on this subject by Katrin Elger in Der Spiegel. It starts the same way as this weblog: "Stories of Turkish girls forced into arranged marriages in Germany are well known. But hardly anyone talks about the men who are forced into marriage—sometimes harassed, blackmailed or beaten." The article dwells on one case of a coerced bridegroom and generalizes that "many young Muslim men are also forced to marry against their will and subjected to violence at the hands of family members. Hardly any organized assistance programs exist for these men, and many are too ashamed to talk about their fates."
Aug. 4, 2009 update: Gerd Fleischer of Norway's SEIF (Self-help for immigrants and refugees) tells of boys in his office who burst into tears as they tell him how, to please their parents, they have to get married. If they refuse, Fleischer reports, father might beat them up to coerce them to act like "proper men" and follow orders.