Marital Captivity: Creating a support system

In her second blog for Savera UK on the topic of marital captivity, Shirin Musa, of Dutch organisation, Femmes for Freedom, explains how she brought a civil case against her ex-husband and also established Femmes for Freedom to help others like herself, and those in more complex situations.

“I decided to study law and Dutch jurisprudence, and I discovered that in 1982 a Dutch Jewish woman convinced the Dutch Supreme Court to acknowledge her situation of marital captivity as a Civil Wrongful Act. This was a landmark case. If she brought her Jewish divorce case to secular court than I could do it too.

I took this case as exemplary and I brought my civil case against my ex-husband before a secular court on the basis of the Dutch Wrongful Act and as a violation of the European Convention of Human Rights (Art. 8 and 12). The judge ordered my ex-husband to pay penalties for each day he refused to give me an Islamic divorce and recognised marital captivity for the first time as a human rights violation. This became a precedent for other women in this situation. This was a personal victory, but it was not enough for me.

My case was simple in comparison to other marital captivity cases. I had the support of my parents, siblings, and friends. But the reality is that many women, like the case of the woman in the film below do not have the resources or the support system.

The Dutch Pakistani woman in the film was forced into a marriage in Pakistan. After a couple years she went to a Sharia court to obtain a divorce verdict. Thinking that she was divorced, she entered a new relationship and was later prosecuted in Pakistan for adultery.

She managed to escape Pakistan and travel to the Netherlands. In the Netherlands she decided to seek information on her Sharia divorce verdict through the Pakistani embassy. The embassy was clear: Sharia courts in the West have no jurisdiction to give divorce verdicts for marriages established in Pakistan.

This case study highlights the causality of forced marriage and marital captivity but also the non-recognition of secular divorce verdicts by Muslim countries. But most importantly, it depicts how Sharia courts in the West are fraudulent by providing divorce verdicts which are not recognized by Muslim countries. For you, British readers, it shows that the forced marriage unit and legislation surrounding forced marriage is incomplete. All victims of forced marriage repatriated to the UK are in situations of marital captivity.

Due to complicated cases like this, I decided to establish Femmes For Freedom in 2011 in order to help women and girls stuck in clashing legal systems.”

Afrah Qassim, founder and CEO of Savera UK added: “Shirin’s work to create an organisation that can support those without resources or support to escape marital captivity is vital. Frequently, those affected by marital captivity are also in situations of ‘honour’-based abuse or subject to other harmful practices and specialist help is needed to ensure that are able to leave their abusive situations and their marriage.”

Next – Marital Captivity: Creating Solutions That Cross Borders