Welcome to the second part of our interview with Fraidy Reiss, founder of Unchained At Last, a nonprofit organisation in the U.S. dedicated to helping women and girls leave or avoid arranged/forced marriages and rebuild their lives. Unchained provides free legal and social services and emotional support, while also raising awareness and pushing for relevant legislation.

All pictures courtesy of Fraidy Reiss and Unchained At Last.

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Fraidy Reiss

6. What advice or recommendations can you give to women and girls who are being pressured by their family and/or community into a forced or arranged marriage?

My advice to women and girls who are being pressured into marriage: Get help! Do not try to deal with this traumatic situation on your own. Contact Unchained At Last or another organisation that is familiar with forced marriage.

Also, please do not dismiss any threats your loved ones might make against you. We all want to believe the people we love are not capable of hurting us, but we must understand that sometimes they are.

 

7. What advice or recommendations can you give to women in forced marriages about leaving safely?

Again, my advice to women and girls who are fleeing forced marriages: Get help. You deserve support while you travel this difficult road, and you might need that support for your own safety, whether you realise it or not.

Please reach out to Unchained or another organisation that is familiar with forced marriage and knows how to respond.

 

8. How do you think men and boys in communities that practise forced and/or arranged marriages can help stop and abolish this practice?

Men and boys can help end coercive marriages by talking openly about some difficult topics and urging their communities to rethink their attitudes about them. Those topics include:

  • What is “arranged” marriage, and how is it different from “forced” marriage?
  • What is full, informed consent, and how can that be undermined deliberately or otherwise?
  • How does lack of choice when entering a marriage continue within the marriage too?
  • What is a reasonable minimum age for marriage?

I should note, of course, that men and boys also can be forced into marriage – but forced marriage is more likely to happen to women and girls, and women and girls in a forced-marriage situation often face more obstacles than men and boys do if they try to escape.

 

9. How can The Pixel Project’s supporters engage with and support Unchained At Last?

If you want to engage with and support Unchained and help end forced marriage, you can donate money to the cause, volunteer your time and expertise, and help raise awareness. Visit www.unchainedatlast.org to see the many ways you can join the movement to end forced marriage.

 

10. In your considered opinion, how can we end violence against women for good?

I wish I knew exactly how to end violence against women forever. I don’t, but I know that we move closer to that goal when we, women and men, are vigilant and outspoken – that is, when we identify and call attention to instances of institutionalised patriarchy and sexism. We must not overlook or accept; we must not become complacent.

I founded Unchained on the belief that such vigilant and outspoken people can nudge societies to improve, to move away from injustices and abuses that have become culturally ingrained and seemingly permanent. I hope you share that belief. And, for the sake of women around the world, I hope you are vigilant and outspoken too.

Fraidy Reiss

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