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Forced marriage is a marriage in which one or both of the parties is married without his or her consent or against his or her will. A forced marriage differs from an arranged marriage, in which both parties consent to the assistance of their parents or a third party (such as a matchmaker) in identifying a spouse, although the difference between the two may be indistinct. The practice of forced marriage is still practiced in the parts of South Asia, East Asia and Africa and among immigrants to the West from these regions. Some scholars object to use of the term "forced marriage" because it invokes the consensual legitimating language of marriage (such as husband/wife) for an experience that is precisely the opposite. A variety of alternatives exist, including forced conjugal association, and conjugal slavery.
The United Nations views forced marriage as a form of human rights abuse, since it violates the principle of the freedom and autonomy of individuals. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that a women's right to choose a spouse and enter freely into marriage is central to her life and dignity, and equality as a human being. The Roman Catholic Church deems forced marriage grounds for granting an annulment — for a marriage to be valid both parties must give their consent freely. Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery also prohibits marriage without right to refuse of herself out of her parents', family's and other persons' will and requires the minimum age for marriage to prevent this.
In response to the problem of forced marriages among immigrants in the UK, the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 was passed, which enables the victims of forced marriage to apply for court orders for their protection.
In 2008, the Special Court for Sierra Leone's (SCSL) Appeals Chamber found the abduction and confinement of women for "forced marriage" in war to be a new crime against humanity (AFRC decision). The SCSL Trial Chamber in the Charles Taylor decision found that the term 'forced marriage' should be avoided and rather described the practice in war as 'conjugal slavery' (2012).
Historically, forced marriage was used to require a captive (slave or prisoner of war) to integrate with the host community, and accept his or her fate. One example is the English blacksmith John R. Jewitt, who spent 3 years as a captive of the Nootka people on the Pacific Northwest Coast in 1802-1805. He was ordered to marry, because the council of chiefs thought that a wife and family would reconcile him to staying with his captors for life. Jewitt was given a choice between forced marriage for himself and capital punishment for both him and his "father" (a fellow captive). "Reduced to this sad extremity, with death on the one side, and matrimony on the other, I thought proper to choose what appeared to me the least of the two evils" (p154).
Early and forced marriages can contribute to putting people, specifically girls, into a cycle of poverty and powerlessness. Most are likely to experience things such as violence, abuse and forced sexual relations. This means women who marry younger in age are more likely to be dominated by their husband. They also experience poor sexual and reproductive health. Young married girls are more likely to contract HIV and their health could be in jeopardy. Most people that are forced into a marriage lack education and become illiterate. Young ones tend to drop out of school shortly before they get married.
All Sunni and Shiite schools of thought agree that forced marriage is not allowed under under Islam. The marriage contact must be between the bride and groom who have both willingly approved it, and only after the bride has received her fathers acceptance. The marriage contact must also have 2 witnesses in order for it to be genuine.
A shotgun wedding is a form of forced marriage occasioned by an unplanned pregnancy. Some religions and cultures consider it a moral imperative to marry in such a situation, based on reasoning that premarital sex or out-of-wedlock births are sinful, not sanctioned by law, or otherwise stigmatized. The phrase is an American colloquialism, though it is also used in other parts of the world.
It is based on a hyperbolic scenario in which the pregnant female's father resorts to coercion (such as threatening with a shotgun) to ensure that the male partner who caused the pregnancy goes through with it, sometimes even following the man to the altar to prevent his escape. The use of violent coercion to marry is no longer legal in the United States, although many anecdotal stories and folk songs record instances of such intimidation in the 18th and 19th centuries. Purposes of the wedding include recourse from the male for the act of impregnation and to ensure that the child is raised by both parents as well as to ensure that the woman has material means of support. In some cases, a major objective was the restoring of social honor to the mother.
Shotgun weddings have become less common as the stigma associated with out-of-wedlock births has gradually faded and the number of such births has increased; the increasing availability of birth control and abortion, as well as material support to unwed mothers such as welfare has reduced the perceived need for such measures.
Khmer Rouge period in Cambodia
These marriage ceremonies consisted of no fewer than three couples and could be as large as 160 couples. Generally, the village chief or a senior leader of the community would approach both parties and inform them that they were to be married and at the time and place the marriage would occur. Often, the marriage ceremony would be the first time the future spouses would meet. Parents and other family members were not allowed to participate in selecting the spouse or to attend the marriage ceremony. The Khmer Rouge maintained that parental authority was unnecessary because it “w[as] to be everyone’s ‘mother and father.’”
Pakistan and Afghanistan
Compensation marriage, known variously as vanni, swara and sang chatti, is the traditional practice of forced marriage of women and young girls in order to resolve tribal feuds in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Although illegal in Pakistan, it is still widely practiced in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
Gita Sahgal, the writer and journalist, film director, and human rights activist was the producer in 2002 of "Tying the Knot". The film was commissioned by the U.K.'s Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Community Liaison Unit, which was set up to handle the problem of British victims of forced marriage who have been, or may be, taken abroad to marry against their will. The educational video on marriage and freedom of choice was produced for use in schools, youth groups, and other organisations working with young people, examines marriage across various cultures, and was designed to promote discussion on the issues it raises.
Forced marriages can be made because of family pride, the wishes of the parents, or social obligation. For example, according to Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, many forced marriages in Britain within the British Pakistani community are aimed at providing British citizenship to a member of the family currently in Pakistan to whom the instigator of the forced marriage feels a sense of duty.
Estimates are that hundreds of Pakistani girls in New York have been flown out of the New York City area to Pakistan to undergo forced marriages; those who resist are threatened and coerced. The AHA Foundation has commissioned a study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to research the incidence of forced marriage in New York City  and has successfully referred numerous individuals seeking help in fleeing or avoiding a forced marriage with qualified service providers and law enforcement.
Percent of girls who were forced to marry before a certain age:
- South Asia before the age of 18- 48%
- Bangladesh before the age of 15- 27.3%
- Africa before the age of 18- 42%
- Niger before age of 15- 26%
- Kyrgyzstan before age of 18- 21.2%
- Kazakhstan before the age of 18- 14.4%
In Popular Culture and Academia
The British movie East Is East shows the practice of forced marriages: a Pakistani father (married to a British woman) forces his oldest son into marriage and, after the son's escape, tries to do the same to the two next eldest sons.
- Arranged marriage
- Birth control sabotage
- Child marriage
- Forced pregnancy
- Bride kidnapping
- Exchange of women
- Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 UK legislation
- Human trafficking
- Servile marriage
- Marriage of convenience
- United Nations 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery
- BBC (Ed.). (n.d.). Introduction: Forced Marriage. Retrieved December 16, 2012, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/forcedmarriage/introduction_1.shtml
- Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, Article 1, (c)
- Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, Article 2
- "FORCED MARRIAGE – A CONSULTATION". Home Office. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
- A Narrative of the Adventures and Sufferings of John R. Jewitt, only survivor of the crew of the ship Boston, during a captivity of nearly three years among the savages of Nootka Sound: with an account of the manners, mode of living, and religious opinions of the natives.digital full text here
- Early and Forced Marriage- Facts, Figures and What You Can Do. (n.d.). Retrieved December 7, 2012, from Plan website: http://www.plan-uk.org/ early-and-forced-marriage/
- Hebrews 13:4 - Holy Bible, NIRV revision, passage discusses the sancity of marriage and the commendation of adultery and, implicitly, wedlock.
- Natalae Anderson, Documentation Center of Cambodia, Memorandum: Charging Forced Marriage as a Crime Against Humanity, 1 (September 22, 2010).
- Anderson, 2.
- "Baroness Amos launches Tying the Knot, an educational video on marriage and freedom of choice," M2 Presswire, 11 March 2002, accessed 16 February, 2010
- British Council Handout - The forced-arranged marriage abuse
- "Forced marriage to become criminal offence, David Cameron confirms". The Guardian. 2012-06-08.
- Katz, Nancie. (November 24, 2007). "Parents force daughters to fly home to Pakistan for arranged marriages." The New York Daily News.
-  "The AHA Foundation 2012 Annual Report," accessed 22 March 2013
-  The AHA Foundation, accessed 22 March 2013
- Harden, S. (2012, August 8). Arranged/ Forced Marriage Statistics. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from Statistic Brain website: 
- European Immigrants Continue to be Forced Into Marriage World Politics Watch 31 January 2007
- Forced Marriage, Another Perspective
- Interview with Serap Cileli World Politics Watch 1 February 2007
- Forced Marriage Among Europe's Immigrants: Hülya Kalkan's Story World Politics Watch 8 February 2007
- Freedom Charity, UK charity raising awareness of forced marriage and 'dis-honour' based violence.
- BBC News story: Forced marriage 'could be banned'
- The UK Government's joint Home Office/Foreign & Commonwealth Office Forced Marriage Unit: Forced Marriage Unit
- Akhtar Amin (November 13, 2006). "Swara practised with impunity in tribal areas". Daily Times. Retrieved 2008-06-05.
- Declan Walsh (June 5, 2008). "15 child brides used to settle Pakistan feud". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-06-05.
- Ashfaq Yusufzai (April 1). "Blood Feuds Trap Girls in 'Compensation Marriages'". Inter Press Service. Retrieved 2008-06-05.
- "Swara---A Bridge over troubled waters.". Ethnomedia. Retrieved 2008-06-05.
- "Virtual Slavery: The Practice of "Compensation Marriages"". United Nations Population Fund. Retrieved 2008-06-05. (Microsoft Word document)