Press Release: From Silence to Strength - 11 Stories of EM Women Facing Forced Marriages

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6 March 2024

From Silence to Strength: 11 True Stories of Hong Kong Ethnic Minority Women Facing Forced Marriages

“My voice was never heard by my parents”, say Forced Marriage Victims in Hong Kong

This International Women’s Day, The Zubin Foundation, a local charity whose mission is to improve lives of Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities, is shedding light on the global and complex issue of forced marriage from a Hong Kong perspective. Their research report called “Time to Unmute| Understanding Forced Marriages in Hong Kong, 2024”, explores forced marriage through the experiences of 11 Hong Kong ethnic minority women, most of whom were pressured or forced to marry. All the women were born in Hong Kong or came here as young children. Some were frightened to speak with the researcher but chose to participate because they wanted their voice to be heard.

“As a Hong Kong woman myself, I was surprised that forced marriage exists here. A forced marriage is different to an arranged marriage, we are talking about girls who have no choice in who they marry. Sometimes it’s a cousin, a friend of the father, another relative, or someone else. The forced marriage process often begins at primary school when the girls are contracted to marry and then they are informed towards the end of secondary school; there is no opportunity for free and full consent”, said author Sala Sihombing. “This is not a religious issue but a cultural one, imposed by parents and the wider family. It is heart-breaking that most women felt they were not heard by their parents. With this research, we hear their voices” added Sihombing.

Forced marriage is directly linked with girls’ participation in education. There is a significant correlation between early or forced marriage and the end of a girl’s education. These young women are under constant pressure from their parents to marry, and many reach a compromise with their parents that in exchange for some level of tertiary education, they will marry the man chosen for them. One of the interviewees noted that:

“Because a lot of the time what happens is a lot of parents will take their kids out of the school and go bring them there [to their home country] and get them married. When they come back there's no education. You just have to work and bring the child, bring your husband here ”

Delay is a common tactic used by girls and women globally. This compromise can directly impact the level of education these young women receive, often only being allowed to pursue a shorter qualification instead of a four-year degree.

The research reveals that children are coerced and often threatened by their parents, if they do not agree to marry, some have been barricaded in a room until they agree, added Shalini Mahtani, Founder and CEO of The Zubin Foundation. “This is child abuse – children are being emotionally and physically abused, and in the case where the individual is under 18, there is sexual abuse. We cannot hide behind the veil of culture; child abuse is abuse regardless of the background of the child”.

THE ZUBIN FOUNDATION Improving the lives of Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities by reducing suffering and providing opportunities © 2024 The Zubin Mahtani Gidumal Foundation Limited (registered charity in Hong Kong - IR 91/12344). All rights reserved.
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The Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse law was gazetted last year and will require certain professionals to mandatorily report on child abuse which covers physical, emotional and sexual abuse and negligence. “We need the government to ensure that mandatory reporters are trained to see the subtle cues of forced marriage and ask the right questions. Mandatory reporters need to understand the “one-chance rule”- that there may only be one chance to help a child and they need to act deliberately. Mandatory reporters also need to know that they can come to us at The Zubin Foundation if they need assistance to better understand the issue. The government, police, educators and the community need to work together”, added Mahtani.

The Zubin Foundation has put forward 14 recommendations for Hong Kong to consider and top of the list is to ensure that mandatory reporters report on abuse and pressure leading to forced marriage of children, developing a Forced Marriage Assistance List for victims of NGOs, and collecting data.

Research (Full Report) [English]:

https://issuu.com/zubinfoundation/docs/240306_understanding-forced-marriage-in-hk

Executive Summary [Traditional Chinese]:

https://issuu.com/zubinfoundation/docs/240306_understanding-forced-marriage-in-hk_cn

About The Zubin Foundation

The Zubin Mahtani Gidumal Foundation, also known as The Zubin Foundation, is a charity committed to improving the lives of Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities by reducing suffering and providing opportunities. For more information, please visit: www.zubinfoundation.org

Press / General Enquiries

Matthew Yu Communications and Partnerships Director, The Zubin Foundation

E: matthew@zubinfoundation.org | Tel: 2540 9588

Winnie Ng Project Director, The Zubin Foundation

E: winnie@zubinfoundation.org | Tel: 2540 9488

THE ZUBIN FOUNDATION
the lives of Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities by reducing suffering and providing opportunities © 2024 The Zubin Mahtani Gidumal Foundation Limited (registered charity in Hong Kong - IR 91/12344). All rights reserved.
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