In Pakistan, where more than 18,000 people in Hong Kong have family roots, almost all marriages are arranged and many are between members of the extended family.
Hafiz Mohammad, a 30-year-old Pakistani born and brought up in Hong Kong, explains there are three types of arranged marriage in Pakistan – completely arranged marriage, love arranged marriage and forced arranged marriage.
In a completely arranged marriage, children leave the decision of who to marry up to their parents. In such instances, parents choose a suitable spouse for their kids. Before getting married, both sides have a chance to meet and communicate with each other.
“About 80 to 90 per cent of marriage is of this kind,” says Mohammad.
Love arranged marriage occurs when two people fall in love and try to convince their parents to consent to a marriage. In such a union, children are still unable to decide to marry independently. They have to persuade their parents to accept their relationship and arrange the marriage accordingly.
Forced arranged marriage happens when one or both parties are married against their free will.
Fermi Wong Wai-fun, executive director of Hong Kong Unison, a group that works with and for ethnic minorities, says arranged marriage is especially common for Pakistani girls.
“I think 99 per cent [of marriages] are arranged for girls.”
Wong’s work with Unison includes helping those trapped in arranged marriages.
“There are more than a dozen requests [for help] each year,” Wong says, most of which come from women and girls.
She recalls the youngest case she has ever dealt with involved a 12-year-old girl who sought her help after she was forced into an arranged marriage when her elder sister’s fiancé suddenly requested that the girl marry his younger brother. If the girl refused to do so, the boy’s side would annul the engagement of the elder sister. To avoid bringing dishonour to the family, the girl had no choice but to accept the marriage.
“She came back to Hong Kong after two years with her baby. She was 14,” says Wong.