‘Forced marriage’ viral video ignites mixed reactions

forced marriage viral video

Syeda Masooma

A video is doing rounds on social media, showing a young girl being coerced into signing a document. The origins of the video are unknown, but the earliest trace that Hum News could dig up goes to an article by El Heraldo (translated as The Herald of Mexico) – a Spanish news outlet.

El Heraldo posted the video with an article titled (as translated), “STRONG IMAGES: a minor resist her parents marrying an older man”, on September 10.

The spread

In less than 24 hours, the video made it to social media sites and became viral. Since then it has been shared countless times across multiple platforms, and across multiple countries, with myriad opinions pouring in from all around the world.

Location of the reported incident

The incident occurred in Bangladesh, a country that practices child marriage even though it was banned in 2017, the article by the Herald of Mexico reads.

Pakistan’s point of view

Pakistan is no different. The video was shared by journalist Arshad Yousafzai earlier on Sunday.

Arshad captioned it with, “Note: Nikkah is a mutual consent and agreement. This kind of Nikkah is completely invalid, illegal and inhuman. Forced marriage = Rape. That’s it.”

While the original article at El Heraldo mentioned the video to be from Bangladesh, the initial reactions of the Pakistani Social media users show that it was perceived to be from India or Nepal. However, soon afterwards, the globally aware Twitteratis corrected that the video was from Bangladesh.

The legal paper in front of the girl in the video also helped in arriving at the conclusion, when some Bengali Twitterati recognized their legal documentation insignia.

The Garment Store:

Amidst a heated global discourse on forced marriages, some Twitter users claimed that the video is not related to marriage at all. Alluding towards the lack of celebratory clothes on the girl, and the background hinting at a garment shop instead of a marriage hall or a courtroom, some social media users claimed that the girl could be forced to sign some property documents instead of a marriage certificate.

Some users offered a deeper background. A journalist based out of the UK, Dilly Hussain, wrote, “This video which has gone viral in the last 24 hours IS NOT of a forced marriage in Bangladesh. This is an incident of a shop employee who plotted to steal money from her employer, and after she was caught, she refused to sign a confession statement that could’ve led to jail.”

The finding:

Irrespective of whether the video indeed shows an instance of a young girl being forced into marriage or is misinterpreted as such, the fact of the matter remains that it has sparked a debate. Child marriage is a reality of modern times despite a rising global understanding of its wrongfulness. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, one in every five girls is married, or in the union, before reaching the age of 18.

In recent years, actions to end child and forced marriage have increased at international, regional and national levels. In the past decade, 25 million child marriages have been prevented globally thanks to the increased rate of girls’ education, the proactive investment of governments in adolescent girls and greater public awareness of the harms of child marriage. But despite all these efforts the prevalence of child marriage remains high.

This viral video is a welcome step in, once again, igniting the debate about improving laws and focusing on women’s education and children’s rights.

As far as the girl in the video is concerned, HUM NEWS will continue to dig into whether she was forced to sign a marriage document, a confession statement or something else. We will keep updating our readers as and when we learn more.

Current Status:

An overwhelming majority of the comments on the post are condemning the treatment of the child and the practice of forced marriages. There is always some hatefulness in reactions to viral posts, and the instance of internet users from all across the globe trying to give it a religious interpretation was not amiss here either. However, Pakistanis as well as users from other countries of the world have vehemently opposed this allegation, quoting Islamic scriptures and historical accounts of forced marriage being strictly prohibited in Islam.

Then there is also the discussion on culture and economic parameters, with some Twitter users chalking up the behaviour of the presumed guardians of the girl forcing her to sign the document. Many Twitter users proposed stricter laws, better education, and higher protection for underage children in countries like Bangladesh as well as other developing economies.

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