|While unmarried Americans may
complain about unfair treatment as employees, tenants,
consumers, and taxpayers, their gripes pale in comparison to the
human rights abuses faced by unmarried adults in other parts of
abuses based on marital status?
That's right, as in invasion
of privacy, forced marriages, arrests for holding hands, lashes
for kissing, and imprisonment for cohabitation. Many
unmarried women are even killed by relatives to restore "family
honor" when they are suspected of violating religious or social
norms imposed on those who are single.
In Malaysia, one
regional government recently announced plans to hire Islamic
spies to snoop on the activities of unmarried citizens to make
sure they were not holding hands or showing affection.
Unchaperoned meetings between
unmarried couples is a crime under Malaysia's Islamic law. Violators can be
up to two months.
Amnesty International reports
that scores of women in Turkey have been
married without their consent.
Forced marriage violates a woman's right to choose her partner,
a right protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
and specified in the International Covenant on Civil and
Romance between unmarried men
and women is a crime in Iran. Those caught by the police,
perhaps just dancing or kissing at a private party, are
Three years ago, Iran sent a message to its population that unmarried
sexual conduct would not be tolerated. Atefeh Rajabi, a 16
year old girl, was hanged in the public square of her village,
after she was convicted of having sex with
A religious judge who put the
rope around her neck later received letters of congratulations
from the town's governor, commending him for his "firm
a Professor in Islamic Studies in the Theology
Department at Georgetown University, recalls instances when
unmarried men have also been punished for having premarital sex,
although not with the death penalty.
countries in the Mediterranean and Muslim worlds tolerate or
allow “honor” killings of unmarried girls and women by their
male relatives, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
These killings are done to "restore family honor" after these
women have engaged in "inappropriate" sexual behavior
or have been perceived to have done so.
Nations report has noted honor killings occurring with some
frequency in Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan,
the Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, Yemen, and other Mediterranean
and Gulf countries.
In societies where
they occur, honor killings are often regarded as
a private matter for the affected family alone.
The courts rarely become involved, and when
they do, the sentence is usually no longer than
one year in jail.
States itself bears some responsibility for perpetuating or condoning
the human rights violations of single people. Two problem
areas involve foreign aid and asylum policies.
The United States has required
that $1 billion of the funds allocated for overseas AIDS
prevention programs must be limited to teaching "abstinence
until marriage." As a result, Human Rights Watch found
that young people in Uganda were being denied information about
condoms and safer sex because of prohibitions in American funded
sex education programs abroad.
About 10 years
ago, a U.S. immigration court ruled that the existence of honor
killings would not constitute a reason for granting asylum to a
The case involved
a Jordanian woman who had engaged in premarital sex. She
fled to the United States for fear of being murdered by members
of her family. The court record indicates that her father asked
her brothers to kill her, and she claimed asylum for that
judge denied her request. In August 1999, the Board of
Immigration Appeals upheld the judge's ruling. However,
after intervention by members of Congress, she was finally
granted asylum in May 2002.
Unmarried people need better
human rights monitoring. No human rights agency currently
has a program targeting human rights abuses based on
Amnesty International and Human
Rights Watch have done a commendable job focusing on the rights
of women as well as gays and lesbians. But evidence shows
that unmarried men and women, regardless of sexual orientation,
need an agency to champion their
international human rights too.
Unmarried America 2007
Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an
attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family
diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.
Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried
email@example.com. Unmarried America is a nonprofit
information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and