I translated parts of a shocking and eye-opening investigative report which was published in the supplement of Arabic Al Bayan newspaper yesterday.
(This is Egypt in the 21 century, by the way.)
Marriage at police stations, stories that will leave you teary eyed
What a perplexing and bizarre thing to be happening.... As it's well known, according to Sharia, law and tradition, it's the marriage contract first and then the wedding, accompanied by celebration of all involved. But what the following stories reveal to us is that sometimes the wedding [I believe the writer here is alluding to the sexual intercourse that takes place on the wedding night], precedes the marriage contract, forcefully, under the sad and silent stare of all involved.
No one can imagine the bitterness those who're forced into marriages in police station experience. It's where their dreams are shattered and hopes are crushed and future is destroyed. Their eyes sinking in waves of tears as they realize the darkness that lies ahead. A stark contrast to what they were planning and hoping for. They suddenly realize they'll live a painful life at the constant threat of divorce. No choice in this life but to wait and hope. Their stories are all replete with tears and miseries and heartbreak.
How could this girl marry the guy who'd brutally raped her? How can she live with him?
This is what Asma, 23 years old from Mansoura (the delta of Egypt), asked after narrating her story.
"After I finished work one day I headed to main street and waved a taxi to take me home. I'd fallen into the habit of writing the number plate of all the veihcles I ride on my mobile phone. And this one was no exception. There were two men sitting out front, so I sat in the back. After a while they both started giggling in muted voices and looking at me furtively. I got suspecious and asked the driver to take his fare and stop to let me out.... but his laughing only got louder, and the other man joined in, too.
I tried to give the driver his fare and asked him to stop more assertively. But he kept driving to a dark and deserted place and moved fast to gag me with his shirt... (Asma' here is crying her eyes out, the report notes). Then he and his partner raped me several times. Every time I tried to get up he'd hit me hard and force me back on the ground. When they were finished he gave me back the fare and drove away. I hurried to the nearest police station and told the officer on duty everything. I gave them the number plate and within hours the perpetrator was brought in the station. When he stood before me I couldn't help myself; I took my shoes off and hit him on the face. He stunned me by saying: "I'm going to marry you...." So I hit him hard again with my hands. Until I saw the officer lift the phone and ask for the station's marriage officiator to be brought in. All at once the world turned black: how could I marry the guy who raped me? but the marriage went ahead. And the dowry was set for 25 piaster [one quarter of an Egyptian pound]. And then the criminal took me away. I saw it on his face, the smug bragging that he'd gotten away with his deed by agreeing to marry me. I see the crime he'd done to me every time I look at him. I'm reminded of that trauma everyday. I don't know what to do."
Suad, 18 years old student of humanities, also narrated her painful story:
"I loved him and he loved me. After we'd agreed to get married, he came to my parents' house to propose. But my father turned him down on the account that he doesn't have a job or a residence for himself. My father had then given him a chance to at least find a house for us to live in. The next day he called me and asked me to meet him, we sat and talked about our future and what to do. He then asked me to come to his mother's house so that we try to convince her to allow us to live with her. I first refused but then I reluctantly agreed and went with him. But when we got there there was nobody home. I asked where his mother is, he said she must have gone shopping. He then proceeded to beat me violently until I passed out. When I came to, I realized that everything was over: he raped me to put my parents under a de facto situation where they'd have to agree to his proposal to marry me. He said he'd only done this because he loved me. I couldn't tell my parents so I went to the police. My parents were called in and they blamed me for going with him. The police officer then brought the rapist and ordered him to marry me. At that moment I'd felt my heart crushed. And my tears fell nonstop. This is not the marriage I was looking for. I can't look the guy I once loved in the face anymore."
Nadia, 20 years old, has more or less the same story.. After she'd been raped and battered by A, she felt she had no chance to avoid scandal and scorn but to get him to marry her. But when she stood in the police station while the papers were being signed, she felt as if her death certificate is being produced, not a marriage contract. "I prayed to God to take my life before I'm taken to this monster's house. No one can imagine how dark and bleak my life is, completely devoid of hopes or ambitions. I can't even have a baby: how can I have a baby with this monster? I don't think our life together will last. All I got from this marriages is the affidavit number I'd gotten from the police when I came in to press charges. But I got none of my rights back..."
The report ends by providing some statistics. Mohamed Fekri, a sociologist, estimates there are more than TWENTY THOUSANDS forced marriages conducted in Police Stations every year in Egypt. The cases invariably stem from rape, sexual harassment, girls lured to sexual relationships by the promise of.....marriage, and other related circumstances. In some cases spurned men resort to rape to get to marry a woman who'd turned them down (or whose family turned them down). Fekri states that these marriages are emotionless and brittle and 80% of them end up in divorce. Add to that all the emotional suffering of victims, who has the reason of their misery stated in the marriage contract: rape, sexual harassment, violation of honor...etc..
How could a marriage that start off with a disaster last?
End of report.
(p.s. I intentionally left out a paragraph where Sharia experts were interviewed and they opined that these marriages are all null and void because they don't enjoy mutual consent ..etc.. Of course, these Sharia experts and clergy men are missing the point. And anyway, they have had enough time and authority to treat societal maladies, and they're failing at it. It's time for a complete mentality overhaul...)