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This article was originally published in The Daily Targum on December 03, 2014. You can access the original article here: bit.ly/1rWzR6K.

The fourth installment of “Honoring Our Heartbeats: A Tour to End Forced Marriage in the U.S.,” which took place yesterday at the [Rutgers University] Institute for Women’s Leadership, incorporated two short films, a skit performance and an open panel discussion to talk about forced marriages and similar forms of domestic abuse.

The presentation’s content centered around “Heartbeats: The IZZAT Project,” a comic book produced by the Pomegranate Tree Group, a collection of young South Asian women who have experienced arranged marriages, forced marriages and various other forms of domestic violence or abuse.

Kathana Ratnakara, performer with the Pomegranate Tree Group and a contributor to “Heartbeats,” said the purpose of the tour is to raise awareness and incite change in the world’s patriarchal mindset.

“The culture is patriarchy. It’s the lack of respect people have for women’s right to choose,” she said. “We see all these stories of violence against women in the media, forced marriage is just an extreme version of a whole spectrum of violence against women.”

In order to create a sense of freedom with survivors at Pomegranate Tree, the comic book’s illustrations, poetry and prose incorporated symbolic imagery with birds.

“Birds are symbolic of freedom, which is pretty much the aim of every story,” Ratnakara said. “We want the freedom to choose. We want the freedom to express ourselves, … [and] we don’t need to be policed by anybody.”

Also playing upon the bird imagery, the screening of “Caged,” a film that was adapted from parts of the comic book, illustrated birds being caged, as well as the metaphorical caging of women in societies where arranged or forced marriages are customary.

Farrah Khan, co-director of Pomegranate Tree, said being caged could be observed in American society where “young, ‘racialized’ women” are bound by forces such as racism and sexism.

Read the full article.

Photo by Sneha Ganguly