What is a forced marriage?
forced marriage happens when one or both participants are coerced into matrimony – without their free consent.
They may have been emotionally blackmailed, physically threatened or abused.
Forced marriages differ from arranged ones, which may have been set up by a relative or friend, but are willingly agreed to by the couple.
An indication of being made to marry someone against their will is ‘a feeling’, says Sue from Central Manchester Women’s Aid. “You know from a young age whether you can say yes or no to your parents.
“And on the day of the ceremony, it is extremely difficult for anyone to say no when everything has been organised.”
Some young people, especially of South Asian origin, have been taken on visits to the subcontinent by their families, unaware of plans to marry them off. Passports have been confiscated to prevent them returning home.
Those who either have been or fear being forced into marriage can become depressed and frightened, develop mental and physical health problems and harm themselves.
A number of those trying to escape unwanted unions have even become victims of honour-based violence or committed suicide.
No major world faith advocates forced marriages although some may try to justify it on religious grounds.
The practice crosses boundaries of culture and class and happens worldwide, but it especially concerns those living in and originating from Asia.
“It’s tradition, not religion, that is the problem,” says Jasvinder Sanghera, who runs a charity that helps forced marriage victims and survived a forced marriage herself.
Human rights’ violation
International bodies have condemned forced unions and supported women’s right to choose their marriage partner.
Forced marriage is a violation of internationally recognised human rights standards. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 16(2)
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.
General Recommendation No 21, UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women
State parties shall ensure on a basis of equality men and women…the same right freely to choose a spouse to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent.
Convention to Elimination all forms of Discrimination against Women, Article 16 )1), (b)