Christina/ June 16, 2010/ Culture

What has been extensively identified as the „most beautiful day in a woman’s life“ can turn out to be a nightmare in some places: marriage. We are not talking about the traditional „Get together” of relatives and friends on a hot summer day. But, about forced weddings with some unloved stranger, which take place on pain of penalties – physically or psychologically.

It is definitely not a new phenomenon that would make it into the breaking news section. Rather new is the fact that a discussion about the topic becomes more and more inevitable in Germany. The problem has even expanded into classrooms. This might have induced the Minister of integration, Maria Böhmer, to publish a „manual for schools on how to deal with forced marriage“ in the name of the government.

The brochure provides a handbook „that prepares teachers when the topic of forced marriage is being raised and that should also help him find the right words vis-à-vis pupils and potential victims“, according to a press item from of 11.07.2010.

In this context there is also talk about awareness raising among teachers: „Attentive and sensitive teachers can identify possible indications for a threatening forced marriage at an early stage and thus offer appropriate help.“

It is not intended to talk about the contents of the handbook itself. This has been quite extensively done elsewhere. Whereas reading the posts reminds me of the question, why the exchange of views shortly leaves the path of original topic and gives way to personal insults.

What produces lack of understanding or at least puts a question is a look at page 33 of the handbook. At this point, the „members of the open state-province-working group for the drafting of the handbook” are named. Wouldn’t it have made sense to consult representatives of the corresponding migration group to discuss such a topic? It cannot be taken for granted that such representatives are not part of the working groups. However, the dialog with the respective cultures should be initiated, for the sake of building sensitizing for virtues and cultural standards. A procedure that is commonly labled as intercultural competence.

Therefore it is not meant to take up cudgels for heteronomy of women’s lives or for assault and battery. But awareness should be araising for the examination of so called „Critical Incidents“, i.e. the clash of interculturally induced differences, where a change in perspective is necessary to take of the „cultural glasses“ of one’s own culture and put on the cultural glasses of a different and maybe strange culture.

The creation and the circulation of the handbook seems to be for me a typical german solution. If there’s a problem, it is being solved in a rational way and practical orientation is being offered. However, I have to take into account that other cultures have different ways of problem solving and measures being taken. Anyhow this should be taken as a step in the right direction, that the government has realized the shattering power of the topic and thus has been interpreted as a call to action.

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