What is Forced Marriage?
In a forced marriage, either bride, groom, or both enter into a marriage without their consent. Forced marriage is a violation of internationally recognised human rights: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 16(2), states that “marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.” 
According to the United Nations, the root causes of forced marriage (including early and child marriage) are :
- gender inequality
- social norms
- tradition and culture.
The vast majority of victims of forced marriage are women and girls. Those who rebel may be disowned, rejected, or kicked out of the house by their family. They may also be subject to abuse by their husbands. In extreme cases, those who reject forced marriage may be murdered.
Forced marriage victims may be coerced into marriage in the following ways:
- physically, verbally, and/or emotionally threatened by their families or communities.
- tricked into going abroad where they find themselves stranded without support or money and forcibly married to someone who has been promised a wife.
- kidnapped by men who want to marry them in order to obtain consent under coercion.
- trafficked for marriage to men in countries like India  and China  where there is an acute gender imbalance.
- entered into marriage by their family before they reach the age of 18.
Types of forced marriage:
- Arranged marriage – In certain cultures where arranged marriages are the norm, women and girls are pressured into accepting a marriage proposal by their families and communities. They may also remain trapped in the marriage if custom dictates that only the man can seek a divorce. 
- Bride kidnapping – This is a practice in which a man abducts a woman or girl he wishes to marry.
- Bride trafficking/purchasing – This is is a form of modern slavery where the victim is bought and sold against their will for the purposes of marriage. It is especially prevalent in countries like India  and China .
- Child marriage – Any formal marriage or informal arrangement where one or both parties are under the age of 18. This affects mostly girls. 
Some hard facts about forced marriage:
- Forced marriage intersects with other forms of violence against women and girls, including physical, psychological, sexual, and economic violence, as well as other harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation. 
- Every year, 12 million girls are forced into marriage without their consent. 
- Approximately 650 million girls and women alive today were married before their 18th birthday. 
- At 46.4%, South Asia has the high percentages of girls under 18 forced to marry 
- The UK government’s Forced Marriage Unit flagged nearly 1,200 possible forced marriage cases in 2017 and dealt dealt with cases relating to 65 countries with the highest number of cases connected to Pakistan (439 cases), Bangladesh (129), Somalia (91) and India (82). 
- Recent independent studies estimated that 50% to 75% of all marriages in Kyrgyzstan involved bride kidnapping. Freedom House reported there were 5,000 nonconsensual bride kidnappings every year in the country and that 2,000 of them involved rape. 
- Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health surveyed 400 women in 40 sites in Myanmar and China, estimating more than 7,400 women and girls were victims of forced marriage in the area and more than 5,000 were forced to bear children for their Chinese husbands. 
The consequences of forced marriage
Here are just some of the consequences that may be faced by victims of forced marriage :
- Disrupting girls’ education.
- Jeopardising the socio-economic independence and security of women and girls, therefore leaving them vulnerable to economic and financial abuse.
- Preventing the participation of women and girls in economic, political and social spheres.
- Leaving girls vulnerable to violence, discrimination, and abuse including domestic violence, domestic slavery, and sexual abuse (including marital rape).
- Early, frequent, and enforced pregnancy and childbirth, resulting in higher than average maternal morbidity and mortality rates.
- The murder of women and girls by their husbands and in-laws should they attempt to escape the marriage.
Footnotes and Further Reading
- “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, United Nations
- “Comprehensive Approach to end Child, Early, and Forced Marriage needed”, UN Women
- “About Honour Killing”, The Pixel Project
- “India’s Bride Trafficking Fuelled by Skewed Sex Ratio”, The Guardian
- “Thousands of Women and Girls are being trafficked from Myanmar to China and forced to marry, study finds”, The Independent
- “About Arranged/Forced Marriage”, Unchained At Last.
- “Bride Kidnapping”, Wikipedia
- “I Was Bought For 50,000 Rupees: India’s Trafficked Brides in Pictures”, The Guardian.
- “Bride Trafficking to China Unveiled”, The Myanmar Times.
- “About Child Marriage”, Girls Not Brides
- “Child Marriage: Latest Trends and Future Prospects”, UNICEF
- “Over 50% of World’s Marriages Are Arranged says New Statistics”, DesiBlitz
- “More than 1,000 cases of forced marriage in the UK last year, report says”, The Guardian
- “Kyrgyz Republic 2014 Human Rights Report” (pg 29), Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State
- “Child, Early, and Forced Marriage, including in Humanitarian Settings”, United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner.
Note: Suspect a case of forced marriage in your community? Get the Forced Marriage and Honour Killing Checksheet here.