East is East: An opinion

The children have a right to know – Ella

What do you mean, “right”? – George

East is East
East is East

When I originally watched East is East in 1999, I was a teenager, growing up with so many Pakistani cultural issues of my own that although I found the film hilarious – I didn’t take into account that the film  focuses on men being forced into unhappy marriages.

I’m so used to thinking of arranged and forced marriages from a woman’s perspective that I forgot about the hard situation men are put in.

There are a couple of real life scenarios I know of which should have opened my eyes:

Scenario 1

A Pakistani family (including the extended family) all live under one roof. They own businesses which must remain in the family. So the eldest boy and eldest girl from the relevant families must marry:-

  • Boy – has a girlfriend, the family know but don’t speak about it.
  • Both are told it is time for you two to marry.
  • Both speak with each other and don’t want to.
  • Girl receives the most pressure because, boy says publically – ” I will marry her, she doesn’t want to”.
  • They get married because of pressure.

Scenario 2

  • Boy is dating/in love, but gets told to get married in an arranged marriage. In this case, the boy just agrees despite heart not being in it.
  • (In East is East, Tariq puts up a fight but cannot make his fathers see sense – this will be a true to life scenario).
  • The boy ends up married, unhappy, and cheats  on his wife.

While watching East is East this week, it did make me think: “Why can’t all (Pakistani) men fight for their freedom like Tariq’s character does?” Instead, many of them cowardly choose to live an unhappy life and ultimately make their wives unhappy.

The boy in scenario one, told me when he was venting, that he wasn’t bothered whether he married his cousin or not. When I told him he should tell the elders  he wanted to marry his girlfriend, he said it was in his best interest not to. He would rather live an easy life, where the pressure is put on the girl, and he can do no wrong, because after all, he is a man.

I think a lot of Asian families that live in the UK have progressed, especially if our parents grew up here, but there are sections of the community which still use marriage as a tool of control, not of happiness.

Whether it’s  to control women, or to control businesses, the mentality needs to be abolished. The men need to respect themselves by treating their wives respectfully if they choose to marry them.

I know I’m generalising – I know of marriages which were arranged in a mutual way between all parties and handled in a caring way. How some parents can pressure their children to marry without a care for their happiness is what baffles me.

The Forced Marriage Unit

If you or someone you know is being forced into marriage either  in the UK or abroad, you can contact the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU).

The FMU helps and advises men and women who are being forced into marriage.

The FMU’s caseworkers also understand the issues that
people from the LGBT community can face, including the family  pressures and how difficult it is to talk about these situations.
They do not judge.

The FMU offers confidential support and information and can also put you in touch with organisations that can support you.

You have a right to choose, and the FMU is there to help you.

You can:
Call (+44) (0)20 7008 0151 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday

Emergency Duty Officer
(outside office hours)
(+44) (0)20 7008 1500

OR e-mail: fmu@fco.gov.uk

Find out more about the work of the FMU at


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