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Wed-locked: Fake marriages in Australia

on 14/05/2019

“I do” are the magic words that bind a couple together, till death do they part.

上海性息

But for some Australians the words “I do” are code for “set me free”.

Fake marriage amongst young Arabs who identify as gay or lesbian has gone unreported until now, and there’s a good reason.

In the Arab World almost all 22 states and territories punish homosexuality with imprisonment.

Six of those still enforce the death penalty.

Mike, not his real name, spent the past three years trying to escape persecution for being gay. He’s in Sydney on a temporary protection visa.

He says he feels as though a fake marriage is his only choice.

“I don’t have any more options other than finding an Arab lesbian in the same situation,” he says.

“I lived with my family it was very hard for me to tell them – actually impossible. It was not safe for me to talk. The only option was to flee to any country that is not in the Arab World and that’s how I ended up in Sydney. But when I came here, I was shocked that there are people especially in the Arab community dealing homosexuality in the same negative way.”

Similarly, Sarah, who has asked that her identity be concealed, felt she needed to enter into a fake marriage in order to avoid ostracision.

“Being a lesbian and not out to my family has made it pretty hard,” she says.

“The option I chose was to get married to a gay guy who was in the similar position as I was where he couldn’t come out to his family so the families would be happy and I’d have no risk of losing my family I guess.”

Sarah and her gay husband are both Arab Australians.

They have maintained a faux marriage for about five years.

Psychologist Sekneh Becknett says fake marriages between gay and lesbian Arabic youth are becoming increasingly common.

“In 10 years of clinical experience I’ve seen hundreds of young folk in these predicaments,” she says.

“It’s different for folks from Arabic speaking backgrounds because of the expectations around gender, cultural, religion. If these young folks don’t fulfill those prescribed roles there are repercussions of being ostracised, the fear of being met with physical harm and isolation.”

Dr Becknett says fake marriages can have damaging psychological effects.

“The long-term impact of living this double life produces immense stress,” she says.

“It’s seldom that it placates the family – there is then the expectation of babies to be born – the life long commitment of a marriage. Sometimes what happens is the resentment of the same-sex attracted partner begins to build.”

A new Australian web-series called iluvubut.tv, which is produced by members of the community, aims to put pressure on both Arabic speaking networks and gay and lesbian organisations to provide more support for people living in fake marriages.

Executive producer of iluvubut.tv, Alisar Gazal says the series is intended to show the struggles faced by couples in fake marriages.

“The web series reflects what happens on a daily basis in people’s lives,” she says.

“It happens a lot and I know of a lot of people who are constantly searching for gay husbands or lesbian wives. It requires an enormous amount of energy in order to be able to live like that but they have to do it because we also love where we come from – we also love who we are as Arab Australians and we are very strongly connected to our culture.”

See more of Patrick Abboud’s news stories on The Feed, broadcasting weeknights at 7:30pm on SBS TWO.

Watch the video report on YouTube:

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