Norway: Family control bigger problem than forced marriage

Norway: Family control bigger problem than forced marriage

Via Utrop (Norwegian):

According to figures from the The Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi), the Directorate's minority counselors, who work in schools across the country, got 283 reports of extreme control between 2009 and June 2011, compared with 76 reports of forced marriage.

Six students at Holtet school (Oslo) sat down to discuss social control.

"If one day we're at a party and meet a religious friend, he can start talking and spreading rumors: 'he drinks - he's a bad person'," says Ahmed (21).

"You're being attacked, in a way," says Mina (7) of the rumor-spreading.

Mina has been pressured by Muslim girls to act like them. "But now I don't care anymore," she says.

Friendships with Norwegian girls are easier for her, and her parents encourage it.

But parents and teacher aren't often aware of the problem, the youth say. The reason is that they're seldom present when the supervision occurs, and sometimes the comments are in a foreign language.

"No, the teachers don't notice it, since it happens in places where the teachers aren't there," says Ahmed. "But the teachers should gather the girls in a group and speak to them. There are many girls who don't speak of their life at home of fear that it could lead to problems for the parents."

IMDi's minority counsel at Holtet, Linda Thorsen, says girls without hijab are primarily subject to social control. She says the controllers probably don't even see how serious it is, but that verbal attacks on girls who hold different opinions aren't OK.

"It's probably one of the reasons why there's only girls without hijab here," Thorsen says of the group who agreed to take part in the discussion.

Sometimes balancing between two cultures has weird effects, says Ali (17). "I know girls who wear the hijab, and then you see them at a party without a hijab. You get a shock. 'Wow, didn't you wear a hijab today?' "

Q: What do they answer?

A: They answer, "yes, but a party is a party".

Geir Ove Halvorsen is a social studies teacher at Stovner school. He says the amount of social control in the classroom is minimal, and that it take place outside the class and the teacher's control.

He thinks the amount of social control varies between classes and school, but he feels that his students show each other understanding. "I see that students mostly respect that people have different opinions. This holds for example in discussions about arranged marriages and attitudes towards homosexuality," he says.

Researcher Inger Lise Lien of the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies (NKVTS) says that constant role changes is one of the strategies multicultural youth use to deal with culture conflicts.

"Some are careful and try to balance the two cultures. One adapt to the situation, depending on who they're with at the moment. Some go home with a scarf and change clothing when they're out. Youth have different strategies to deal with this," says Lien.

She thinks minority youth often face difficult decisions, which, strictly speaking, don't need to be so problematic.

"People shouldn't make either-or scenarios. It's possible to be open to the fact that people can be complicated. You can have a network in both the ethnic Norwegian and your own community," says Lien.