Unchained: A Political Salon on Arranged Marriage

This event is by invitation only.

About the Event

Tens of thousands of women in the United States – many  as young as 15 years of age – are in arranged marriages, particularly in the Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Sikh, South Asian, and African communities. Many of them have been coerced or trapped into their situations, face domestic violence, and lack the support and resources that would allow them to leave safely. Coerced marriages are an under-reported problem that affect both U.S. citizens and migrant women. They create an especially fragile situation for migrant women, who lack the legal protections, familiarity with the culture and law, and broader societal support that U.S. citizens have. Religious extremism both in the United States and abroad, as well as ostracism of migrants and religious minorities, have worsened the problem. How does the U.S. compare to other countries in the world in dealing with this problem? What can be done to support women in coercive marriages?

Join senior fellow Kavitha Rajagopalan in conversation with Shehnaz Abdeljaber, board president of Unchained At Last, a Palestinian woman who took on her family and community to avoid an arranged marriage.  

About the Speaker

Shehnaz Abdeljaber grew up in a patriarchal community, where she fought to avoid ending up in an arranged marriage when she was 18. Her experiences turned her into a dedicated advocate for human rights, especially as they pertain to children and minorities Shehnaz is President of the Board at Unchained At Last and serves as the outreach coordinator for the Rutgers University Center for Middle Eastern Studies, where she helps coordinate cultural and educational events involving the Arab and Muslim communities. She previously served on the Commission for New Americans under Governor Jon Corzine. Shehnaz is a graduate of Rutgers University. She is now a graduate student at University of Pennsylvania, where she is pursuing a Master of Liberal Arts degree in Arab/South Asian women’s literature and creative writing.

About the Moderator

Kavitha Rajagopalan is a World Policy Institute Senior Fellow and author of Muslims of Metropolis: The Stories of Three Immigrant Families in the West, a narrative nonfiction exploration of integration and identity formation in the urban Muslim diaspora. Her projects include research and advocacy on the causes and consequences of undocumented migration, arranged and forced marriage in America, urban informality and minority access to mainstream financial systems. She writes widely on global migration and diversity and has taught related courses at NYU's Center for Global Affairs. She is a director at Kroll Advisory Solutions.

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