|Marriage and other
equivalent or similar unions and status
|Validity of marriages|
|Dissolution of marriages|
|Private international law|
|The Family and the Criminal Code
(or Criminal Law)
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. Forced marriage is still practiced in 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 woman'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 1969, 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).
In 2013 the first United Nations Human Rights Council resolution against child, early, and forced marriages was adopted; the resolution recognizes child, early, and forced marriage as involving violations of human rights which “prevents individuals from living their lives free from all forms of violence and that has adverse consequences on the enjoyment of human rights, such as the right to education, [and] the right to the highest attainable standard of health including sexual and reproductive health," and also states that “the elimination of child, early and forced marriage should be considered in the discussion of the post-2015 development agenda.”
- 1 Historical context
- 2 Causes of forced marriages
- 3 Consequences
- 4 Violence
- 5 Relation to dowry and bride price
- 6 Marriage by abduction
- 7 Forced marriage as a way of solving disputes
- 8 Escaping a forced marriage
- 9 Sharia law
- 10 Shotgun wedding
- 11 By country
- 12 Statistics
- 13 See also
- 14 References
- 15 External links
Marriages throughout history were arranged between families, especially before the 18th century. The practices varied by culture, but usually involved the legal transfer of dependency of the woman from her father to the groom. The emancipation of women in the 19th and 20th centuries changed marriage laws dramatically, especially in regard to property and economic status. By the mid-20th century, most Western countries had enacted legislation establishing legal equality between spouses in family law. An arranged marriage is not the same as a forced marriage, in the former the spouse has the possibility to reject the offer, in the later they don't. The line between arranged and forced marriage is however often difficult to draw, due to the implied familial and social pressure to accept the marriage and obey one's parents in all respects.
In Europe, during the late 18th century and early 19th century, the literary, and intellectual movement of romanticism presented new and progressive ideas about love marriage, which started to gain acceptance. In the 19th century, marriage practices varied across Europe, but in general arranged marriages were more common among the upper class. Arranged marriages were the norm in Russia before early 20th century, most of which were endogamous. Child marriages were common historically, but began to be questioned in the 19th and 20th century. Child marriages are often considered to be forced marriages, because children (especially young ones) are not able to make a fully informed choice whether or not to marry, being influenced by their families.
In Western countries, during the past decades, the nature of marriage - especially with regard to the importance of marital procreation and the ease of divorce - has changed dramatically, which has led to less social and familial pressure to get married, and therefore to more freedom of choice in regard to choosing a spouse.
Historically, forced marriage was also 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).
Forced marriage was also practiced by authoritarian governments as a way to meet population targets. The Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia systematically forced people into marriages, in order to increase the population and continue the revolution.
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.’”
Raptio is a Latin term referring to the large scale abduction of women, (kidnapping) either for marriage or enslavement (particularly sexual slavery). The practice is surmised to have been common since anthropological antiquity.
In the 21st century, forced marriages have come to attention in European countries, in the context of immigration from cultures where they are common. The Istanbul Convention prohibits forced marriages. (see Article 37).
Causes of forced marriages
There are numerous factors which can lead to a culture which accepts and encourages forced marriages. Reasons for performing forced marriages include: strengthening extended family links; controlling unwanted behavior and sexuality; preventing 'unsuitable' relationships; protecting and abiding by perceived cultural or religious norms; keeping the wealth in the extended family; dealing with the consequences of pregnancy out of wedlock; considering the contracting of a marriage as the duty of the parents; obtaining a guarantee against poverty; aiding immigration.
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.
Forced marriages are often related to violence, both in regard to violence perpetrated inside the marriage (domestic violence), and in regard to violence inflicted in order to force an unwilling participant to accept the marriage, or to punish a refusal (in extreme cases women and girls who do not accept the marriage are subjected to honor killings).
Relation to dowry and bride price
The traditional customs of dowry and bride price contribute to the practice of forced marriage. A dowry is the property or money that a wife (or wife's family) brings to her husband upon marriage. A bride price is an amount of money or property or wealth paid by the groom (or his family) to the parents of the bride upon marriage. Dowry is mainly practiced in South Asia while bride price in Sub-Saharan Africa (see lobolo) and some regions in Southeast Asia (e.g. Cambodia, Thailand).
Marriage by abduction
Marriage by abduction, known also as bride kidnapping, is a practice in which a man abducts the woman he wishes to marry. Marriage by abduction has been practiced throughout history around the world and continues to occur in some countries today, particularly in Central Asia, the Caucasus and parts of Africa. A girl or a woman is kidnapped by the would be groom, who is often helped by his friends. The victim is often raped by the would be groom, for her to lose her virginity, so that the man is able to negotiate a bride price with the village elders to legitimize the marriage. The future bride has most often no choice but to accept: if the bride goes back to her family, she (and her family) will often be ostracized by the community because the community thinks she has lost her virginity, and she is now 'impure'.
Forced marriage as a way of solving disputes
A forced marriage is also often the result of a dispute between families, where the dispute is 'resolved' by giving a female from one family to the other. Vani is a cultural custom found in parts of Pakistan wherein a young girl is forcibly married as part of the punishment for a crime committed by her male relatives. Vani is a form of forced child marriage, and the result of punishment decided by a council of tribal elders named jirga.
Escaping a forced marriage
Ending a forced marriage may be extremely difficult in many part of the world. For instance, in parts of Africa, one of the main obstacles for leaving the marriage is the bride price. Once the bride price has been payed, the girl is seen as belonging to the husband and his family. If she wants to leave, the husband may demand back the bride price that he had paid to the girl's family. The girl's family often cannot or does not want to pay it back.
All Sunni schools of thought agree that forced marriage is only allowed under sharia law, if the wali is a wali mujbir. In most schools of Islamic law, only the father or the paternal grandfather of the bride can be wali mujbir.
Islamic schools differ over whether or not a forced marriage is valid if the potential bride has attained puberty. The Hanafi (largest school) school of thought holds that it is an invalid marriage; while the other schools, Maliki, Hanbali, Shafi'ee, do not agree, and maintain that the marriage is valid. Furthermore, there is some disagreement over whether or not the marriage of a girl who has not yet attained puberty is valid. The majority of scholars believe that it is valid; and quote the following ahadeeth as proof:
Sahih Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 65 Narrated 'Aisha: that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old. Hisham said: I have been informed that 'Aisha remained with the Prophet for nine years (i.e. till his death).
Sahih Bukhari 7.18 Narrated 'Ursa: The Prophet asked Abu Bakr for 'Aisha's hand in marriage. Abu Bakr said "But I am your brother." The Prophet said, "You are my brother in Allah's religion and His Book, but she (Aisha) is lawful for me to marry."
However; evidence from other Islamic sources seems to suggest that this is not something allowed for all Muslims; rather specifically for the Prophet Muhammad. The evidence for this is as follows:
Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet said: "A non-virgin woman may not be married without her command, and a virgin may not be married without her permission; and it is permission enough for her to remain silent (because of her natural shyness)." [Al-Bukhari:6455, Muslim & Others]
It is reported in a hadith that A'ishah related that she once asked the Prophet : "In the case of a young girl whose parents marry her off, should her permission be sought or not?" He replied: "Yes, she must give her permission." She then said: "But a virgin would be shy, O Messenger of Allaah!" He replied: "Her silence is [considered as] her permission." [Al-Bukhari, Muslim, & Others]
It appears that the permission of an under-age bride is indeed necessary for her marriage to be considered valid. Despite the fact that this opinion is held only by a minority of classical scholars, the above narrations seem to clearly make the approval of the bride a condition for a valid marriage contract.
The contract of an Islamic marriage is concluded between the guardian (wali) of the bride and bridegroom, not between bridegroom and bride. The wali of the bride is normally a male relative of the bride, preferable her father. If the bride is a virgin, which is supposed for the first marriage, and if also the wali is her father or her paternal grandfather, the wali can force the bride into the marriage even against her proclaimed will. The guardian (wali) of the bride can only be a free Muslim.
According to the Hanafi school of sharia Law every wali, who is a blood relative, can force an underage virgin in marriage without her consent. But such a forced marriage by a wali other than her father or the paternal grandfather can be demanded to be declared void (faskh) by the qadi, when the she "comes of age".
As forced marriages are allowed under certain circumstances by orthodox Shari'a, "Campaigners and support groups say forced arranged marriage of young British Muslim girls is becoming a bigger problem every day!".
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. Giving birth outside marriage can, in some cultures, trigger extreme reactions from the family or community, including honor killings.
The term "shotgun wedding" 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.
In South Africa, ukuthwala is the practice of abducting young girls and forcing them into marriage, often with the consent of their parents. The practice occurs mainly in rural parts of South Africa, in particular the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. The girls who are involved in this practice are frequently under-aged, including some as young as eight. The practice received negative publicity, with media reporting in 2009 that more than 20 Eastern Cape girls are forced to drop out of school every month because of ukuthwala.
Forced marriage is common in Niger. Niger has the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world; and also the highest total fertility rate. Girls who attempt to leave forced marriages are most often rejected by their families and are often forced to enter prostitution in order to survive. Due to the food crisis, girls are being sold into marriage.
Forced marriage is prevalent in Madagascar. Girls are married off by their families, and often led to believe that if they refuse the marriage they will be "cursed". In some cases, the husband is much older than his bride, and when she becomes a widow, she is discriminated and excluded by society.
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.
Karma Nirvana, a charity set up by Jasvinder Sanghera who was disowned by her Sikh family aged 16 when she refused to marry a man in India, takes about 600 calls a month.
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. In response to the problem of forced marriages among immigrants in the UK, the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 (applicable in England and Wales, and in Northern Ireland) was passed, which enables the victims of forced marriage to apply for court orders for their protection. Similar legislation was passed in Scotland: the Forced Marriage etc. (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act 2011 gives courts the power to issue protection orders.
In June 2012 the British Government, under Prime Minister David Cameron, declared that forced marriage would become a criminal offence in the United Kingdom. In November 2013 it was reported that a case was brought before the High Court in Birmingham by local authority officials, involving a then 14-year-old girl who was taken to Pakistan, forced to marry a man ten years her senior and two weeks later forced to consummate the marriage with threats, resulting in pregnancy; the court case ended with Mr Justice Holman saying he was powerless to make a "declaration of non-recognition" of the forced marriage, since he was prevented by law from granting a declaration that her marriage was "at its inception, void". Mr Justice Holman said that the girl, now 17, would have to initiate proceedings herself to have the marriage nullified. British courts can also issue civil orders to prevent forced marriage, and since 2014 refusing to obey such an order is grounds for a prison sentence of up to five years.
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 makes forcing someone to marry (including abroad) a criminal offense. The law came into effect in June 2014 in England and Wales and in October 2014 in Scotland.
In July 2014, the United Kingdom hosted its first global Girl Summit; the goal of the Summit was to increase efforts to end child marriage, early, and forced marriage and female genital mutilation within a generation.
The UK Forced marriage consultation, published in 2011, found forcing someone to marry to be a distinct criminal offence in Austria, Belgium, Turkey, Denmark and Germany. In 2014 it became a distinct criminal offence in England and Wales.
The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence defines and criminalizes forced marriage, as well as other forms of violence against women.  The Convention came into force on 1 August 2014.
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. The results of the study were equivocal. However, AHA has successfully referred numerous individuals seeking help in fleeing or avoiding a forced marriage with qualified service providers and law enforcement. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime Conference, there are "limited laws/policies directly addressing forced marriage", although more general non-specific laws may be used.
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%
- Arranged marriage
- Knobstick wedding
- 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
- Stuart, Hunter (16 October 2013). "Country With The Most Child Brides Won't Agree To End Forced Child Marriage". Huffington Post.
- Jodi O'Brien (2008), Encyclopedia of Gender and Society, Volume 1, SAGE Publications, page 40-42, ISBN 978-1412909167
- Hutton, M. J. (2001). Russian and West European Women, 1860-1939: Dreams, Struggles, and Nightmares. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; see Chapter 1
- 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
- Natalae Anderson, Documentation Center of Cambodia, Memorandum: Charging Forced Marriage as a Crime Against Humanity, 1 (September 22, 2010).
- Anderson, 2.
- Eisenhauer, U., Kulturwandel und Innovationsprozess: Die fünf grossen 'W' und die Verbreitung des Mittelneolithikums in Südwestdeutschland. Archäologische Informationen 22, 1999, 215-239; an alternative interpretation is the focus of abduction of children rather than women, a suggestion also made for the mass grave excavated at Thalheim. See E Biermann, Überlegungen zur Bevölkerungsgrösse in Siedlungen der Bandkeramik (2001) 
- 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/
- "Ethiopia: Revenge of the abducted bride". BBC News. 18 June 1999.
- Vani: Pain of child marriage in our society Momina Khan, News Pakistan (October 26, 2011)
- Nasrullah, M., Zakar, R., & Krämer, A. (2013). Effect of child marriage on use of maternal health care services in Pakistan. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 122(3), pp 517-524
- Forced child marriage tests Pakistan law Barbara Plett, BBC News (5 December 2005)
- Bedell, J. M. (2009), Teens in Pakistan, Capstone
- Stange, Mary Zeiss, and Carol K. Oyster, Jane E. Sloan (2011). Encyclopedia of Women in Today's World, Volume 1. SAGE. p. 496. ISBN 9781412976855.
- The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, Vol. VIII, p. 27, Leiden 1995.
- http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/forced-arranged-marriage-young-british-2715692 Mirror: "Forced marriage: Ayesha was repeatedly beaten, raped and then twice almost murdered by her own family"
- Hebrews 13:4 - Holy Bible, NIRV revision, passage discusses the sancity of marriage and the commendation of adultery and, implicitly, wedlock.
- "Turkey condemns 'honour killings'". BBC News. 1 March 2004.
- Sarah Condit (2011-10-28). "Child Marriage: Ukuthwala in South Africa". Genderacrossborders.com. Retrieved 2013-01-11.
- "When 'culture' clashes with gender rights". Mail & Guardian. 2011-12-02. Retrieved 2013-01-11.
- Lea Mwambene and Julia Sloth-Nielsen. "Benign Accommodation? Ukuthwala, 'forced marriage' and the South African Children's Act".
- Girls escape forced marriage by hiding spoons in their clothes to set off airport metal detectors
- "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
- Travis, Alan (8 June 2012). "Forced marriage to become criminal offence, David Cameron confirms". London: The Guardian.
- Saul, Heather (5 November 2013). "Girl aged 14 became pregnant after she was forced to marry man, 24". London: The Independent. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
- "Muslim Girl, 14, In Forced Marriage: Judge 'Powerless' To Help". The Huffington Post (UK). 5 November 2013. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
- "FORCED MARRIAGE – A CONSULTATION". Home Office. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
- 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
- http://snrg-nyc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/forced-marriage-working-paper.pdf Marcus, Anthony, Popy Begum, Alana Henninger, Laila Alsabahi, Engy Hanna, Lisa Stathas-Robbins, and Ric Curtis. 2014. “Is Forced Marriage A Problem in the United States: Preliminary Results from a Study of Intergenerational Conflict over Marital Choice Among College Students at the City University of New York from Middle Eastern, North African, and South Asian Migrant Families”
-  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". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-06-05.
- Ashfaq Yusufzai (April 1, 2006). "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)