Mar 23, 2022, 2:18 PM | Article By: Omar CHAM LLB(Hons), BL

I do not have the words to express loathe for such a widespread but yet disgusting practice among many Gambian societies. The culture of forcing girls/women into marriages must stop for being repugnant and contrary to good conscience.  

The idea of marriage is the union of two consenting individuals. The foundation of which must be built on a bond bounded by the willingness to share unconditional love, affection and tranquillity for now and forever. Unconditional love and affection cannot be bought nor can it be attained by the use of force. When we force a girl to marry a man she do not love and never will love, is the most excruciating and unimaginable thing in her life. This thought will shake her entire being and slowly remove humanity from her. The thought will penetrate her every nerve and leave her with tears heavy and thick that the whole world could see. Oh People who understand, this practice despicable.

Marriage is the most scaring thing in the world for a woman [sometimes] even with the man she loves. Then for a second, imagine what goes through her mind if she is force to marry a man she doesn’t love. Her entire soul will be beaten. She will cry for her life every time the thought strike her mind. Then she will cry tears and blood and will she cry for help. The worst part is that help will never come because she was sacrificed by the very people who are supposed to help and care for her. This is the highest level of unforgiveable betrayal. We should be ashamed of ourselves. This disgusting practice must stop.

We must empathise with our sisters and our girls. The same way every man wishes to marry a woman of his choice, a woman wishes to marry the man of her choice. This is what is just and acceptable not only in the eyes of civilise men, but also in the eyes of God. The Quran states, “there shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion” Al-Baqarah 2:256. Marriage is to the muslim a fulfilment of his religious obligations as recommended by Rasulluh SAW. Therefore, if religion, the basis of which we are ague to marry is not compulsory to accept, there can certainly be no compulsion in marriage. It is prohibited to force anyone into marriage and a marriage so contracted shall be voidable. There is no Islamic scripture that gives a parent the absolute right to marry off his daughter without her consent. In fact, it was reported in the Hadith that the Holy Prophet Muhammad SAW did not accept Ali’s RA proposal to marry Fatima RA, he simply said: “In Sha Allah”. He approached his daughter and discussed Ali’s proposal with her and only when he got the answer YES from his daughter did he accepts Ali’s offer. He SAW, was indeed a man among men; unlettered but high and illuminated than the so-called educated. We must change our ways and the follow the message. Culture is not religion and indeed forced marriage is unlslamic. 

Again, the Holy Prophet SAW is quoted to have said: “a woman (whether a virgin, divorced or widow) cannot be married to anyone until her permission is sought” Shahih Muslim 1419, Shahih Bukhari 6968. This shows that Islam does not condone forced marriage. Mind you, these are not my words; these are the words of the Messenger you follow or purport to follow. I leave you with this if the above is not enough proof; the Quran said: “O YOU WHO HAVE BELIEVED, IT IS NOT LAWFUL FOR YOU TO INHERIT WOMEN BY COMPULSION” An-Nira 4:19. This verse clearly prohibits us from taking or giving out our women into marriage of any kind without their consent. If you do it and thereby inflict debilitating wounds in the hearts and souls of women, be informed that you are in sin.  

Marriage, under the civil law is a contract. A contract is the meeting of the minds; an agreement between two parties. The same way everyone is free to engage in a contract with anybody, he or she should be free to choice his or her partner in life. A person forced to enter in a contract has a remedy at law, and such contract is null and void. The same is the fate of a marriage contracted by force; it is voidable at best and/or void at worst.  

There is enormous respect for the entity of marriage. The union of a man and a woman is guided and protected by constitutional rights and freedoms as well as legislation. Section 27 of the 1997 Constitution states:

Right to marry 27: 

(1) Men and women of full age and capacity shall have the right to marry and found a family.

(2) Marriage shall be based on the free and full consent of the intended parties.

There CANNOT be better clarity to the above law. For any marriage to be valid under the laws of the Gambia, it must be done with the free and full consent of the intended parties. Free and full, no act of coercion whatsoever. A parent’s consent becomes secondary. This provision of the law effectively prohibits both child and forced marriages.  Women must be allowed to choose their fitting partners and not be reduced to pawns. Some men have egos the size of mountains and treat women less of humans. Hurt their feelings and go about proud of it. Your days are coming. Women are born survivors, they outlive every pain and stand at the end rode waiting for the unless and arrogant men. They will chop your head. Our women are not slaves, must we sell them into marriage for their vulnerabilities. Must we humiliate them? Men of understanding fear Allah. He the Almighty honours woman, must we dishonour them?

I hope to see that day when every woman is allowed to marry the man she loves. A day when such pain of having to live with a man she does not love is no more.