The issue of forced marriages has come to the attention of numerous states in the past few decades and each state has chosen different strategies to address the practice. In some nations, governments have taken the leading role, implementing legislation focussed on curtailing the practice of forced marriage; other countries have relied on non-governmental organizations and women's groups to provide support for victims. An examination of the initiatives by other nations gives an overview of measures which have been implemented worldwide and their effects, as well as the public response to their implementation.
- 1. Cambrensis, Giraldus.
This report outlines the recent initiatives taken by selected European countries (Holland, Belgium, Turkey, Germany, Austria, France, and Britain) to tackle forced marriage.
- 2. Kamguian, Azam.
This article discusses the practice of forced marriage in Europe and advocates for government and societal protection of women who are victims of forced marriages. It emphasizes the underlying reasons for forced marriages and the struggle between children and their parents, who believe they are acting in their child's best interests.
- 3. Rude-Antione, Edwige. Forced marriages in Council of Europe member states, (Strasbourg: Directorate General of Human Rights, 2005).
This report examines legislation and policy initiatives relating to forced marriages in the 28 member states of the Council of Europe. Proposals are put forth to amend the minimum age of marriage to 18 for all states and to introduce an offence of
“forced marriage”. Increased education on the subject and the expansion of resources available to those involved in forced marriage situations are also encouraged. Since it outlines the initiatives of a number of European countries, it is a good starting point for research on this topic within the European community.
There have been discussions in both chambers of Parliament on a law prohibiting traffic in children and there has been discussion on addressing dowry marriage, which is prohibited by law but continues as a common practice. The government is considering introducing a minimum legal age for the marriage of girls.
- 1. Gabon.
“Responses to the list of issues and questions for consideration of the combined second, third and fourth periodic reports”(Submitted to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, 6 October 2004).
This CEDAW country report outlines the measures Gabon has implemented in order to adhere to its obligations under the CEDAW convention. Noteworthy measures include discussions in both chambers of Parliament on a law prohibiting traffic in children and the discussion on addressing dowry marriage, which is prohibited by law but continues as a common practice. There is resistance to the law because the dowry is a symbol which marks a woman's departure from her birth family and entry into that of her husband, and the law is not enforced since the practice is frequent and widely accepted.The Ministry of National Education established an information, education and communication programme addressing early pregnancies, and awareness-raising campaigns are under way in schools. The government is contemplating bringing national law into line with the Convention by establishing a legal minimum age for the marriage of girls.
5.1.2 Other African Nations
There have been numerous reported instances of forced
marriage in Africa due to a history of male
supremacy whereby fathers commonly give away their daughters without
consultation. Child marriages remain the usual practice rather than the
exception in many parts of the continent. Some national policies discourage
early marriage, although this is in constant tension with
traditions which lead many poverty-stricken families to marry off their
daughters at young ages. Legal redress is now becoming available in some
countries—children under 18 can sometimes report
cases to the police or to local councillors, and some adults have recourse to
the Constitutional Courts to seek redress. Moreover, many children's
associations and district education offices are working to discourage
the practices of forced and child marriages. Some courts are providing redress
by sentencing husbands and fathers for acts relating to forced marriage such as
detaining and defiling children.
- 1. Bamgbose, Oluyemisi.
“Legal and Cultural Approaches to Sexual Matters in Africa: The Cry of the Adolescent Girl”(2001-2002) 10 U. Miami Int'l & Comp. L. Rev. 127.
Noting the general culture of male supremacy in Africa which seeks to dominate females in all aspects of life, the article discusses the cultural practice of early marriage in Africa. The marriage of a girl is considered the responsibility of her father and her father commonly gives her to the man of his choice without consulting her. In Hausa land, child marriages are the rule, not the exception, even though it is a criminal offence in many African countries to have sexual intercourse with a woman under the age of 14 and there is a national policy to discourage early marriage. The remainder of the article focuses on female genital mutilation.
“Use the Law to Bar a Forced Marriage”Africa News Service (2 August 2005).
The author argues that women who are forced into marriage should seek legal redress by arguing that consent was not obtained. Children under 18 can report cases of child marriage to the police or to local councillors, and adults can go to the Constitutional Court to seek redress for forced marriage. The author also encourages
“exploiting”legal aid agencies such as the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) if the process becomes expensive.
- 3. Lemeketi,
“Girl, 11, Rescued From Forced Marriage”Africa News Service (14 October 2004).
The story is told of a girl who was saved at the last minute when a teacher was notified that she was going to be married to a 40 year old man, and the article states that the district education office is trying to combat the practice of early forced marriage.
- 4. Mukuka,
“Nakonde Girl, 14 Forced Into Marriage”Africa News Service (11 November 2004).
This article tells the story of a 14 year old girl who ran away from a forced marriage, but was found and immediately returned and married. There are organizations attempting to end the practice such as the National Single Parents Association of Zambia (NSPAZ), whose director has condemned marrying off girls who are supposed to be in school. The NSPAZ said they would ensure that both the father of the girl and her new husband were punished under the law.
- 5. Women's
“Africa: Forced Marriage of young girls destroys their lives”WIN News 25:3 (Summer 1999) 56.
Discussion of how the
“brideprice”tradition in Africa leads poor families to marry off their daughters at young ages for money. However, this ensures that girls are not killed at birth as often occurs in India, where the family must pay a dowry in order for a man to marry their daughter.
“Court Rescues A 13 Year Old Girl From Forced Marriage”Africa News Service (19 May 2000).
A 13 year old girl was illegally married to a 45 year old villager, who was sentenced to five years by the Babati District Court because of evidence that he was defiling a girl while knowing that she was under age. The girl's father was sentenced to three years in prison for marrying off his under-aged daughter for a bride price of 20 head of cattle.
“DEO Saves Pupil, 13, From Forced Marriage”Africa News Service (31 May 2002).
This short article tells of the rescue of a 13 year old girl from
“a traditional circumcision den”where she was being held for a forced marriage and had been confined for six months. The area District Court stated that parents who marry off their under-age children will be arrested.
“Two Jailed Over Forced Marriage”Africa News Service (15 August 2002).
A father and prospective husband were jailed for detaining a 12 year old girl and were fined for trying to force her into marriage.
Austria's government addressed forced marriage in September 2005, when it announced that police and prosecutors would investigate suspected forced marriages even when victims are too afraid to testify. However, much of the campaign to fight forced marriage comes from non-profit organizations and support groups.
- 1. Greiger, Eric.
“Muslim girls in Austria fighting forced marriages”San Francisco Chronicle (4 December 2005) A15.
Reports that Muslim girls in Austria and Germany are fighting against forced marriage with the help of support groups. In September 2005, Austria's government announced that police and prosecutors would investigate suspected forced marriages even when victims are too afraid to testify. Orient Express, a Vienna non-profit organization, recently started a media campaign in Vienna schools to make Muslim teens aware of the possibility of forced marriage as one of the risks of travelling to their parents' homeland.
Belgium will become the world's second country after Norway to enact a criminal law ban on forced marriage, a crime which will be punishable by a jail sentence or fine. The new law will also allow an attempted forced marriage to be prosecuted.
Belgium's Cabinet approved a proposal from the Justice Minister which will make Belgium the world's second country after Norway to ban forced marriages following research which found that many Turkish and Moroccan women in Belgium were affected by forced marriage. Forcing another into marriage will be punishable with a jail term of one month to two years or maximum fines of EUR 500 to EUR 2,500. An attempted forced marriage is prosecutable with a jail term of 15 days to a year or a fine of EUR 250 to EUR 1,250. The legislative proposal outlines the right to enter a marriage willingly and gives public prosecution authorities the power to directly annul a forced marriage.
Denmark's response to the issue of forced marriages was to tighten their immigration policy and restrict the right to family unification with a spouse from abroad. They amended the Alien Act in 2002 to include stricter requirements for foreign spouses (the minimum age for family reunification was raised from 18 to 24, spouses cannot be cousins, and there must be a strong affiliation to the country), and released an Action Plan on Forced, Quasi-Forced & Arranged Marriages in 2003. Moreover, the Danish Immigration Service will now presume that a marriage has not been entered into voluntarily if the spouses have a close family relationship and the application for immigration will be rejected. The Danish Criminal Code provisions concerning coercion also apply to marriage. In 2004, the first conviction in a forced marriage case occurred when a father was sentenced to one year in prison for forcing his 15 year old daughter into an arranged marriage.
- 1. Bredal, Anja.
“Tackling forced marriages in the Nordic countries: between women's rights and immigration control”in Lynn Welchmnan and Sara Hossain, eds.
‘Honour’: Crimes, Paradigms, and Violence against Women (London: Zed Books, 2005) 332.
This paper looks at the measures implemented by the governments of Norway and Denmark to combat forced marriage. Denmark's dominant strategy was to tighten their immigration policy and restrict the right to family unification with a spouse from abroad. The Alien Act was amended in 2002 such that foreign spouses must now be 24 years of age, the spouses cannot be cousins, and both spouses must have ties with Denmark which are closer than with any other country. Moreover, the government published an Action Plan on Forced, Quasi-Forced & Arranged Marriages in 2003 to address the issue. The author argues for a sensitive approach which takes into account the individuals involved and their specific family situations, cultures and traditions.
- 2. Danish Government. The Government's Action Plan for 2003-2005 on Forced, Quasi-forced and Arranged Marriages (Denmark: Ministry of Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs, 2003).
The Government Action Plan outlines the government's goals with respect to combating forced marriage which include changing attitudes of young people on choice of marriage partner, supporting and helping victims of forced marriage, reinforcing preventative initiatives by the authorities, and strengthening cooperation between private and public organizations. It discusses the immigration measures already introduced and notes that forced marriages are prohibited by internationally recognized human rights conventions and Danish law. The Danish Criminal Code provisions concerning coercion also apply to marriage.
- 3. Danish Immigration Service.
These guidelines outline what the Danish Immigration Service will examine in order to determine whether a marriage has been forced. If the spouses share a close family relationship it will be presupposed that they did not marry on a voluntary basis and in such cases the application will as a rule be rejected. The authorities will also look at age, relationship and contact prior to marriage, financial conditions, and contact with families-in-law to determine if one of the parties was forced into the marriage.
“First conviction in forced marriage case in Denmark”Asia Africa Intelligence Wire (25 February 2004).
In the country's first case of forced marriage, a father was sentenced to one year in prison for forcing his 15 year old daughter to marry by using forceful means.
In March 2006, France raised the minimum age at which a woman can marry from 15 to 18, bringing it in line with the minimum age a man can marry. The higher marriage age was introduced as an effort to discourage forced marriages which occur primarily in some immigrant communities, and was one of the numerous recommendations of the Information Mission to combat the issue of forced marriages in France. Brenner's article notes that as of 2004, France was reluctant to acknowledge that oppressive practices were occurring to many Muslim women in France's large Muslim population.
- 1. Brenner, Marie.
Brenner discusses the prevalence of forced marriage in France and the reluctance of France to acknowledge that oppressive practices occur against Muslim women. However, the tribulations of the large Muslim population gained media attention with the headscarf debate and when Sohane Benziane was burned to death in October 2002.
- 2. France,
“Parliamentary Report on the Family and the Rights of Children,”(26 January 2006) at p. 13-14.
In this report created at the request of the President of the National Assembly by the Information Mission, suggestions for combating forced marriages are proposed including raising the age limit on marriage to 18, introducing educational and supportive measures, and facilitating applications to have marriages annulled for lack of consent. These suggestions include a proposal to make it possible for the public prosecutor to challenge a marriage entered into without the freely given consent of one or both spouses.
- 3. Schuck,
“French parliament raises female marriage age to 18 in crackdown on forced marriages”The America's Intelligence Wire (23 March 2006).
For the first time since the minimum age for marriage was set in 1804, the minimum age at which a woman can marry was raised from 15 to 18. The higher marriage age is an effort to discourage forced marriages which occur in some immigrant communities.
The French parliament raised the minimum age at which a women can marry from 15 to 18, which puts it at the same age that men can marry.
Germany's large Turkish and Kurdish populations have high rates of forced marriage, pressing Germany to address the issue. Forced marriage can now be charged under the criminal offence of severe coercion, and those found to have been involved in forcing another to marry can be jailed. However, if the marriage takes place in a foreign country, which often occurs, as is the case with other countries, women are subject to the foreign laws. An unwanted marriage can be annulled within the first year on application, but most women don't know about this deadline and it expires before they decide to take action.
- 1. Bryant, Elizabeth.
“German Activist Puts a Face on Issues Plaguing Muslim Women”Religion News Service (5 June 2006).
This article discusses Seyran Ates, a women's rights lawyer in Berlin. A recent German law now makes forced marriage a criminal offence.
- 2. Dethloff, Sigrid.
This article notes that most victims of forced marriage in Germany are Turkish and Kurdish, the two largest ethnic minority groups. A 1996 poll showed that 28.3% of female Turkish immigrants in Berlin married against their will and many are subjected to sexual coercion. An unwanted marriage can be annulled within the first year, but most women don't know about this deadline or wait too long and the deadline for annulment expires.
- 3. Schneider, Peter.
Schneider discusses the large immigrant districts in Berlin, noting that they are completely detached from the rest of the city. Traditional immigrant customs often live on within these areas, which in turn means that many in this parallel Muslim community are subject to being forced into arranged marriages.
- 4. Tzortzis,
“Europe tackles forced marriage”The Christian Science Monitor (21 January 2004).
This article details the accounts of a woman who was finally able to divorce her husband after being forced into marriage by her family and discusses how Germany was considering implementing legal initiatives such as a law which would jail those found to have been involved in forcing another to marry. Judges don't view forced marriage as a human rights violation, but rather think that it is something stemming from religion or tradition that must be addressed from within the community.
Although the Netherlands have not yet implemented specific measures to combat forced marriage, a recent advisory commission informed the Minister of Immigration that forced marriages occur frequently in the country. The report of the committee advised the government to adopt measures to prevent forced marriages.
“Forced marriages ‘occur frequently’, says report”(9 June 2006), online: Expatica.com.
An advisory commission told the Minister of Immigration that forced marriage occurs frequently in the Netherlands. The commission also advised that a case manager should be assigned to each victim to ensure that she receives the appropriate assistance, and that coordination between different help organizations should be improved.
Forced marriages have been discussed and recognized as an outstanding issue in Norway for many years. The Norwegian government published an Action Plan against forced marriages in December 1998. The Ministry of Children and Family Affairs were primarily responsible for the action plan, which contained 40 initiatives covering a broad spectrum of topics including preparing information leaflets, crisis help, school involvement, international cooperation, and research. The government also asked ethnic minorities and religious leaders to assume some of the responsibility for preventing forced marriages from happening.
In the spring
of 2002, the government published a
“Renewed Initiative against Forced
Marriage”, which was a continuation of the Action Plan of 1998 containing 30
new initiatives, and the idea of introducing a minimum age limit and a ban on
cousin marriages was suggested. In 2003, forced marriage was made a criminal
offence in Norway (there has been one case where a man was found guilty) and can result in a
prison sentence of up to three years. The Marriage Act includes annulment for
forced marriage and the Children's Act forbids marriages made by parents on
behalf of a child. Also in 2003, the Norwegian parliament adopted a law
stipulating that family reunification through marriage will not be permitted
unless the wife has the right to divorce, becoming the first country in Europe to introduce such a law. The Ministry of Children
and Family Affairs has pledged to set aside money to create support networks
and crisis centers for those affected by forced marriage and to fund research
on the topic.
Sherene Razack has criticized Norway's laws on forced marriage, arguing that the approach attributes violence against women to Muslim values and stigmatizes the Muslim community by emphasizing the notion that immigrant youth must be protected from their families. There have also been concerns that the mandatory prosecution clause for cases of forced marriage which allows perpetrators to be prosecuted without the victims' consent (ideally relieving the young person of having to initiate legal action against her own family) could in fact be contrary to the victim's wishes, since she may not want to criminalize her family. This may in turn make youth reluctant to report forced marriages. NGOs are also critical of the lack of involvement of social services and other institutions such as schools, and the fact that the problem is not taken seriously and awareness is lacking.
- 1. Bawer,
“A problem with Muslim enclaves; A controversial study in Norway says forced marriage among immigrants prevents desired integration”The Christian Science Monitor (30 June 2003) 9.
Bawer discusses the release of the book Human Visas, which details the integration of non-Western immigrants in Europe. The book examines
“fetching marriages”, defined as the situation where one spouse is
“fetched”from the country of origin; the results of a study showed that 82% of Moroccan immigrants and 76% of Pakistani immigrants had been parties to these marriages and the numbers increased between 1996 and 2001. These trends in Norway are representative of Muslims throughout Western Europe. Norway became the first country in Europe to adopt a law stipulating that no family reunification through marriage will be permitted unless the wife has the right to divorce.
- 2. Bredal, Anja.
“Tackling forced marriages in the Nordic countries: between women's rights and immigration control”in Lynn Welchmnan and Sara Hossain, eds. ‘Honour': Crimes, Paradigms, and Violence against Women (London: Zed Books, 2005) 332.
This paper looks at the measures implemented by the governments of Norway and Denmark to combat forced marriage. The Norwegian government developed an Action Plan on forced marriages to establish support networks, which was published in December 1998. Raising the minimum age for family reunification on the basis of marriage to 24 was proposed in 1998, and in 2002, an age limit and a ban on cousin marriages were suggested. In 2003, forced marriage was added as a specific criminal offence, making it the first country to take this step, yet there has been only one case where a man was found guilty of the crime. Annulment of a forced marriage is now included in the Marriage Act and the Children's Act forbids marriages made by parents on behalf of a child.
- 3. Norway, Ministry of Children and Family Affairs. Action Plan Against Forced Marriages (1998).
The action plan against forced marriages aims to prevent young people from being exposed to forced marriage and to provide better help and support to young people who are involved in forced marriages. The action plan includes a commitment to increase awareness and disseminate information regarding forced marriages to both youth and parents. The department pledges to set aside money to create support networks and crisis centers for those affected by forced marriage and to fund research on the topic.
- 4. Norway, Ministry of Children and Family Affairs. Renewed Initiative Against Forced Marriage Spring 2002.
This renewed initiative against forced marriage suggests thirty measures to combat forced marriage. The proposals are focussed in the areas of crisis help for young people, regulations, the education sector, in-service training, information and work to improve training, and international cooperation.
- 5. Razack, Sherene.
“Imperilled Muslim Women, Dangerous Muslim Men and Civilized Europeans: Legal and Social Responses to Forced Marriages”(2004) 12 Feminist Legal Studies129.
Razack criticizes Norway's laws on forced marriage, arguing that their response, even though more moderate than other countries, is still racist in that it attributes violence against women to Muslim values and stigmatizes the Muslim community. She discusses two books on forced marriage: Human Visas by Hege Storhaug, which assumes that marriages involving someone from an immigrant's homeland are forced and involve rape, and Unni Wikan's publication Generous Betrayal which says that women pay the price for the government's generous attitude with respect to the cultural practices of Norway's immigrants. The Action Plan, which identifies culture as the culprit, is structured around the notion that immigrant youth must be protected from their families.
“Court cracks down on forced marriage ”Aftenposten (23 May 2005), online: Aftenposten.
A city court in Drammen sentenced a girl's father and brother to jail for threatening her life and physically abusing her to marry a man from Northern Iraq. Social workers reported the threats to the police, who investigated the case and filed charges.
There have been
proposals to make
“forced marriage” a criminal offence in Scotland, but they have not yet
been implemented. Currently, initiatives have included a campaign to encourage
women forced into marriage to speak out and a conference to brainstorm ways of
reducing the incidence of forced marriages.
Scotland's Pakistani community is actively trying to get the government to address the issue of forced marriages. They believe that it has largely been ignored by the authorities, especially the courts, and the misunderstanding regarding the topic is having a negative impact on race relations. When a local Muslim MP was approached for help in retrieving two Scottish-Asian girls who were abducted to Pakistan by their father to marry and was successful in bringing them home, the Muslim community in Glasgow was split—some felt it was a private family issue and he should not have intervened, but the family themselves said that he saved their family and they were grateful to him (Gillan, 1999).
- 1. Brown, Craig.
A campaign was launched by the police to encourage women who have been forced into marriage to speak out about their situations, since they may not come forward because they feel that their situation will not be dealt with safely and in confidence. Some of the people who work with these women believe that overcoming the taboo surrounding the issue is crucial to combating it.
- 2. Gillan, Audrey.
“The case of the reluctant brides”The Guardian (16 January 1999) T010.
This article discusses Mohammad Sarwar, Britain's first Muslim MP, and his rescue operation of two Asian girls from Glasgow who had been abducted by their father to Pakistan to marry. Sarwar was able to bring the girls back to Scotland, but the Muslim community in Glasgow was split on his actions—some felt it was a private family issue and he should not have intervened, but the family themselves are reported as saying that he saved their family.
Scotland's Pakistani community conducted research which revealed that forced marriages are twice as common as previously thought, and that almost half of marriages involving Scottish Asians and a partner from abroad involve coercion.
The Council for British Pakistanis carried out research on forced marriage and concluded that Scotland is lagging behind in efforts to combat the issue. However, the article notes that a conference was held to brainstorm ways of reducing the incidence of forced marriages.
5.2.9 United Kingdom
Numerous initiatives have been undertaken by the United Kingdom in order to tackle the issue of forced marriages. In 1997, the
Rule,” which required a ruling on whether the primary purpose of the marriage
was to gain entry into the UK,
was abolished, which in turn led to an increase in reported cases of forced
marriage. In 1999, the Home Office established a working group on forced
marriage, which published a report of its findings,
“A Choice by Right”, in
2000. Since the release of the report, guidelines for social workers, police
officers, and education professionals on dealing with and recognizing forced
marriage have been published, and publicity of the issue has increased, in an
attempt to encourage women to seek help.
The government revised its definition of domestic abuse in October 2004 to include forced marriage and in January 2005 the Community Liaison Unit at the Foreign Office became part of the joint Home Office and Foreign Office Forced Marriage Unit. An extra immigration officer was appointed to the British High Commission in Islamabad to support British nationals who are reluctant to sponsor their spouse's entry into the UK and a special team was established by the British High Commission in Islamabad to rescue girls forced into marriage and bring them back to the UK. This team will issue an emergency passport and, if necessary, loan money for the plane fare home.
The minimum age for a spouse from outside the European
Union to enter the UK has been raised from 16 to 18. Dual nationality is becoming less relevant and
the government now treats all persons facing forced marriage alike, making
representations on their behalf and taking all appropriate action (Hossain,
2005). In September 2005, a three-month public consultation was launched to
determine whether or not to institute a criminal law ban on forced marriages. In
June 2006, the results of the consultation were published, with a narrow
majority against the ban. On June 7, 2006, the Home Office revealed that they
have abandoned the idea of creating a new criminal offence due to lack of
support and because they felt that the
“disadvantages of creating new
legislation would outweigh the advantages”.
There have been numerous criticisms of the government's initiatives on forced marriage. Some argue that forced marriages are private disputes between families that the public should not become involved with, whereas others feel that the increased publicity of forced marriage is causing criticism of cultural practices and minority populations, largely due to the misunderstanding of the difference between forced and arranged marriages.
The consultation report put out by the government lists many pros and cons raised in the consultation on the proposed ban on forced marriage. The respondents who felt that the disadvantages of creating new legislation would outweigh the advantages feared that victims could become isolated, that reconciliation of families could be prevented and that forced marriage could be driven underground. Some respondents were also concerned that the creation of specific legislation could cause racial segregation and create a ‘minority law'. They didn't feel that spending resources on creating specific legislation was justified because the money could be more usefully spent on tackling the issue through non-legislative routes such as increased education and awareness-raising, and better support for victims and survivors. They argue that the existing criminal offences, including those on kidnapping, assault, sexual offences and false imprisonment, are sufficient for prosecution.
Those in support of creating a specific offence argued that primary legislation could change public opinion, perception and practice and could have a strong deterrent effect, showing families and communities that this practice is wrong and illegal. They also felt that it could empower young people with more tools to negotiate with their parents and relatives, and clarify what steps can be taken against perpetrators. A new criminal offence could allow families who forced their children into marriage, community members who conspired in the arrangements, or clerics who carried out the weddings, to be jailed.
Since the announcement in June 2006 that a new specific offence of forced marriage would not be created, many have responded with criticism against the government for failing to follow through in their plans to protect women. The bulk of the criticism accuses the government of worrying too much about political correctness, pacifying the large Muslim population which gives them the votes they need, and grabbing headlines, rather than focussing on the needs of vulnerable young women. Some feel that the failure to implement the ban on forced marriage sends a message to minority communities that forced marriage is acceptable.
The response from UK Muslims to the initiative of raising the minimum age at which a person can apply for a spouse from outside the European Union to be allowed to live in Britain from 16 to 18 has been largely critical. The minimum age at which a person can apply for a spouse from inside the EU to live in Britain remains 16, which has caused the Muslim community to allege that the lack of consistency in the two ages is targeted at the legal tradition of arranged marriages within Muslim communities.
In response to the abolishment of the
Rule” in February 1997, public opinion is somewhat divided. A Bradford women's group called Our Voice has argued that the
“Primary Purpose Rule”
should be reintroduced, claiming that after this rule was abolished there was a
rise in the number of forced marriages. However, anti-racism groups have
campaigned against the
“Primary Purpose Rule” for years, arguing that Asian
women were victimized by the rule because entry clearance was refused to their
lawful spouses. It is important to note that there does not seem to have ever
been a Primary Purpose case involving a Caucasian couple.
- 1. An-Na'im, Abdullahi.
In this article, An-Na'im specifically examines South Asian Muslims in the UK. He suggests that for cultural transformation to occur, it is essential to work within the communities and engage opinion leaders, women's groups and other actors, both in the UK and the sending country, in order to contextualize the issue and encourage culturally sensitive responses. These are the people who will have the most access to developing the ideas of the group. It will not be effective to challenge the concept of honour in these cultures or shame the community.
- 2. Branigan, Tania.
This article discusses the proposed law banning forced marriages, and how it could have far-reaching effects on clerics or community members involved in the arrangement of the marriage. It also notes that the minimum age for spouses entering the UK was recently raised from 16 to 18.
- 3. Cambrensis, Giraldus.
The section on Britain in this report argues that Tony Blair's government is not acting on the issue of forced marriage because the Muslim votes are important for the Labour Party. The Muslim Council for Britain was always against the criminal law ban on forced marriage because they thought it could stigmatize the Muslim community, and now Blair's government has disregarded the proposal to ban forced marriages.
- 4. Gill, Aisha.
“Chained together”Community Care (27 October 2005) 36.
The possibility of a criminal offence of forced marriage has been both criticized and applauded. Most groups argue for legislation to protect victims, but many women's groups are against new legislation, arguing that existing laws offer sufficient protection, and a new offence may create more racist tendencies and intimidate victims. The government defines forced marriage as
“a marriage performed under duress without the full and informed consent or free will of both parties. Being under duress includes feeling both physical and emotional pressure.”
- 5. Hossain,
“Women's Rights to Choice in Marriage: From Recognition to Realisation…and denial?”(Paper delivered at Catalyst 2005: Global Perspectives on Successful Implementation of Human Rights of Women Conference, University of Essex, 6 May 2005) [unpublished].
Hossain tells of many cases of women who were forced to marry, including instances where the women were successfully returned to the UK. She summarizes the measures that the UK has introduced since 2000 including a change with respect to dual nationals: the government stated that dual nationality was irrelevant and all persons in the same situation who are facing forced marriage will be treated alike. Many difficulties still exist because courts in other nations are unwilling to address the issue.
- 6. Hossain, Sara and Suzanne Turner.
“Abduction for Forced Marriage—Rights and Remedies in Bangladesh and Pakistan”(2001), 1-64 I.F.L. 15.
This article focuses on abduction from Britain to Bangladesh and Pakistan of individuals who are dual nationals. Protection is available for dual nationals, but there is no binding obligation to act unless there has been a breach of international human rights norms. The authors argue that the Convention on Nationality should be abandoned and the dominant nationality rule should prevail.
- 7. Hutchinson,
Anne-Marie, Harriet Hayward and Teertha Gupta.
“Forced Marriage Nullity Procedure in England and Wales”(March 2006) I.F.L. 20.\
This article discusses British policy measures and case law related to forced marriage, and includes a case study of a 21 year-old who was sent to India for a forced marriage, which was eventually nullified. The authors argue that the adoption of swift but fair resolutions of similar nullity petitions in the future, especially where they are unopposed, will greatly enhance the protection of the victims of forced marriage.
- 8. INTERIGHTS,
Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) & Shirkat Gah.
“Home Office Working Group—Information Gathering Exercise on Forced Marriages”(Submission to the Home Office Working Group, March 2000).
This submission was created to assist the working group in identifying strategies for providing redress to women taken from the UK to Bangladesh and Pakistan for forced marriage. It outlines characteristics of forced marriage cases and the international legal obligations on the state with respect to forced marriage. The remedies currently available to women who are forced into marriage and suggestions for improvement are discussed.
- 9. Menski,
“South Asian women in Britain, family integrity and the primary purpose rule”in Rohit Baror, Harriet Bradley, and Steve Fenton, eds., Ethnicity, Gender and Social Change (London: Macmillan Press, Ltd, 1999) 81.
Menski argues that Asian women were victimized by the Primary Purpose Rule because it refused entry clearance to Asian women's lawful spouses and there were limited options available to Asian women whose spouses were prevented from joining them in Britain by this rule. A ‘reluctant bride' phenomenon emerged, whereby female applicants were asked pointed questions about whether they wanted to get married and if they were reluctant or hesitant in answering, it was interpreted as a forced marriage.
- 10. Miller, Hannah and Vinay Talwar.
This article discusses the developments which have taken place since the guidelines for social services staff on forced marriages were issued one year prior: the government revised its definition of domestic abuse in October 2004 to include forced marriage and in January 2005 the Community Liaison Unit at the Foreign Office became part of the joint Home Office and Foreign Office Forced Marriage Unit. The age of entry into the UK for spouses was increased from 16 to 18 and an extra immigration officer was appointed to the British High Commission in Islamabad to support British nationals who are reluctant to sponsor their spouse's entry into the UK.
- 11. Norfolk,
“Despair as forced marriages stay legal”The Times (24 July 2006).
There are many people in the UK who are concerned about the government's failure to make forced marriages criminal. A senior police officer said that the lives of young women might be ruined because the decision has been seen by some ethnic minorities as a signal that forced marriage is acceptable. The Crown Prosecution Service director said that a new criminal law would have helped campaigners in minority communities to stamp out forced marriage and others said that the ban would have sent out a message that forced marriage will not be tolerated or accepted.
- 12. Phillips,
Anne and Moira Dustin.
“UK initiatives on forced marriage: regulation, dialogue and exit”Political Studies 52:3 (October 2004) 531.
This article outlines the relevant UK cases (Singh, Hirani, Mahmood, Mahmud) which developed the law on consent in marriage. Duress involving threats to life, limb or liberty became obsolete, moderated first by considerations of age, sex and financial vulnerability, and later by a broader appreciation of the moral pressures parents can bring to bear on their children, even when the children are of mature age.
- 13. Rao, Kavitha.
This article gives background information on forced marriage in the UK, outlines the government's measures to date, and introduces the three-month consultation on whether to criminally ban the practice which began on September 5, 2005. Rao also discusses the Asian community's attitudes about whether forced marriage should be criminalized.
- 14. Singer,
“When is an Arranged Marriage a Forced Marriage?”(April 2001) I.F.L. 30-34.
Singer was the judge in the case of Re KR (A Minor) and in this article he provides some background to the case. He explains that he authorized the reporting of what would otherwise have been a confidential chambers judgment. He discusses the problem of forced marriage as an under-recognised mode of human rights abuse as well as the abuse of parental power which can affect children, primarily girls.
- 15. Southall Black Sisters. Forced Marriage: An Abuse of Human Rights One Year after ‘A Choice by Right’ Interim Report (Southall: Southall Black Sisters, 2001).
This report criticizes the Home Office Working Group report for not giving detailed guidance to police, social service and education professionals, and for endorsing mediation. The Working Group is also criticized for not consulting women's and minority groups, and for allowing change to come from community leaders, who are often conservative males lacking respect for women's rights. The government is often reluctant to intervene because multiculturalism demands acceptance of cultural practices, so to interfere would be racist. Stricter immigration laws are not the answer because many marriages take place overseas and are not primarily for entry into the UK.
- 16. Teare, Para.
Teare argues that minority communities are the only effective people to solve the problem of forced marriage and the government should not involve itself because its interference will be seen as prejudicial to the minority group.
- 17. Tendler, Stewart.
This article examines British males who are forced to marry, noting that data suggests that males may account for up to 38 percent of all forced marriages, and at a minimum 15 percent.
- 18. The Law Society of England and Wales.
These guidelines published by the law society advise solicitors on their role in cases of forced marriages. They emphasize that mediation between the victim and her family should not be attempted and that disclosure of information to family members should be done very cautiously. They also include numerous non-legal options for solicitors to consider, including a list of local organizations which can help.
- 19. U.K., Association of Chief Police Officers, Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Home Office. Dealing with Cases of Forced Marriage: Guidelines for Police (London: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2002).
The police guidelines include background information on forced marriage, specific guidelines for particular situations, and suggestions for dealing with different issues which may arise.
- 20. U.K., Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
This website provides an overview of the Forced Marriage Unit and the services they provide. The Unit sees approximately 250 cases each year, providing guidance, support, and sometimes assistance from overseas police forces to bring victims back to the UK. There is an increased emphasis on prevention, and the website includes contact numbers and links to information for victims and professionals.
- 21. U.K., Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Young people & vulnerable adults facing forced marriage: Practice Guidance for Social Workers (London: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2004).
These guidelines provide information for social workers on dealing with cases of forced marriage. The guidelines include background information, common risks, and general guidelines, as well as detailed guidelines for specific situations.
- 22. U.K., Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Department for Education and Skills. Dealing with Cases of Forced Marriage: Guidance for Education Professionals (London: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2005).
The guidelines for education professionals provide background information on forced marriage and warning signs which could indicate that a student is being forced to marry. They include contact information as well as approved courses of action to follow.
- 23. U.K., Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
This consultation paper regarding the proposed ban on forced marriages was distributed during the three-month consultation period (September to December 2005) and responses were sent back (see summary of responses below). It includes the arguments raised for and against forced marriage and encourages responses about alternatives, other arguments, and whether the benefits would outweigh the risks of implementing the offence.
- 24. U.K., Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
This report, which summarizes the responses to the consultation paper, reveals that 37% of respondents (consisting mostly of Crown Prosecutors and police services) were opposed to creating a specific offence of forced marriage and 34% (primarily those working in children's and young peoples services) were in favour of the creation of the offence. The majority of respondents felt that the disadvantages of creating a new offence would outweigh the advantages and that the money could be better spent on tackling the issue through non-legislative routes.
- 25. U.K., Home Office. A Choice by Right: The report of the working group on forced marriage (London: Home Office, 2000).
This report gives an overview of the extent of the issue of forced marriage in the UK and includes recommendations for prevention and program implementation. It recognizes the diversity and size of the issue and encourages participation from organizations which focus on different aspects and community-based groups which provide support and services to victims. The working group recommends monitoring the extent of the situation, implementing training for relevant agencies and service providers, and promoting awareness of services and rights. It does not support the creation of a specific offence of forcing a person to marry.
- 26. Walsh, Declan.
A special team was established by the British High Commission in Islamabad to rescue girls forced into marriage and bring them back to the UK. In 2004, this team intervened in the cases of 105 British girls. The High Commission will issue an emergency passport and, if necessary, loan the price of the plane fare home. The article includes some case studies which depict the struggles these women must go through upon their return to the UK.
This article discusses the UK's decision to raise the minimum age to bring a spouse from overseas from 16 to 18 in order to combat forced marriages. A unit within the Foreign Commonwealth Office has handled almost 1000 cases of forced marriage since it was introduced in 2000, and has returned 200 British citizens from overseas.
The article cites a rise in forced marriages in the UK in 2000 due to looser immigration laws, such as the abandonment of the Primary Purpose Rule, which required a ruling on whether the primary purpose of the marriage was to gain entry into UK.
This article discusses the proposed changes in immigration and criminal law in the UK, as well as the establishment of a joint forced marriage unit between the Home and Foreign Offices, all of which are to help combat forced marriage.
The article reports that the Muslim community response to raising the minimum age a spouse from outside the EU can enter Britain from 16 to 18 was highly critical and angry. This is because the age for a spouse to enter Britain from within the EU remained 16, thus creating two sets of rules depending on where the spouse is coming from. The Muslim population, who were also angered because of an alleged lack of consultation before the changes, reportedly see it as an attack on the tradition of arranged marriages.
Police officers showed support for introducing a criminal offence of forcing someone to marry because of the clear message it would send that this behaviour is not appropriate.
“Forced Marriage Unit launches national public information campaign”Europe Intelligence Wire (16 March 2006).
A national publicity campaign on forced marriage was launched involving radio and press ads, TV fillers, and poster campaigns to increase awareness of the issues surrounding forced marriage. The campaign aims to emphasize the difference between arranged and forced marriages and highlight the support and assistance which is available for victims.
This article discusses the results of the three month consultation on whether to implement a ban on forced marriages as new legislation, and reveals that a narrow majority was against the idea of a criminal law ban.
“Community split over forced marriage law”Europe Intelligence Wire (7 Sept 2005).
The British Asian community reportedly had mixed reactions over the proposed ban on forced marriages, which could result in parents and community elders going to jail for forcing young people to marry. Some felt that the new law could be an important deterrent for parents and relatives, whereas others feel that the traditional views of older Asians will not change, and that this is unnecessary interference in private affairs.
One estimate suggests that 60 to 80 percent of marriages in Afghanistan are forced on women, however this percentage may diminish with the introduction of greater rights for women nationwide.
- 1. Pennington, Matthew.
“Despite re-emerging women's rights, forced marriage still rife in Afghanistan”The America's Intelligence Wire (15 March 2005).
Human rights officials estimate that between 60 and 80 percent of all marriages in Afghanistan are forced on women, largely because fathers want to marry off their daughters to receive a dowry from the groom's family. However, women's rights have improved in the country: women theoretically have the vote, and many girls returned to school after the US overthrew the Islamic regime.
There has been a steady decline in underage marriage in Indonesia since the passing of the National Marriage Act in 1974, which introduced a minimum age of marriage of 16 for girls and 19 for boys, but as Cammack argues, the decline may be due to other factors.
- 1. Cammack, Mark, Lawrence A. Young, and Tim Heaton.
“Legislating Social Change in an Islamic Society—Indonesia's Marriage Law”(1996), 44 Am. J. Comp. L.45.
Although the Government passed the National Marriage Act in 1974 to attempt to limit polygamy and reduce child marriage, this paper argues that it has had little if any direct effect on the rate of underage marriage by girls. The act requires the consent of both parties for marriage, and the consent of parents if the parties are under 21. It also introduced a minimum age of marriage of 16 for girls and 19 for boys. Although there has been a steady decline in underage marriage, this paper argues that it is due to the availability of alternative understandings of female roles in deciding when and whom to marry which has encouraged the trend to marry later. The most common explanation for the rise in marriage age is expansion of education.
Despite the fact that the minimum age of marriage for girls is 16, forced marriage and child marriage are still prevalent in Pakistan. Some authors allege that the government has neglected to protect women's rights and still fails to provide adequate protection for women against abuse. The zina law, which criminalizes heterosexual relations outside of marriage and is considered a breach of Pakistan's commitments under the CEDAW convention, is widespread and leads to the prosecution and death of many women. There was a judgment of the Lahore High Court in January 2001 which held that a woman cannot be forced to live with her husband or her parent against her will. There have also been a few instances where men have been convicted in cases of honour killings.
- 1. Amnesty International. Pakistan: Insufficient protection of women (London: Amnesty International, International Secretariat, 2002).
This Amnesty International report summarizes the government commitments which have been made since October 1999 to uphold women's rights and describes instances of abuse of women's rights which have occurred despite these assurances. It also discusses the difficulties women face in the criminal justice system when they seek redress and includes recommendations to the government of Pakistan. Although there has been improvement since 1999, Pakistan is still considered to fail to provide adequate protection for women against abuse. Forced marriage and early marriage are still prevalent despite the fact that the minimum age for marriage for girls is 16. There was a judgment of the Lahore High Court in January 2001 that a woman cannot be forced to live with her husband or her parent against her will and there have also been a few instances where men have been convicted in cases of honour killings.
- 2. Amnesty International. Pakistan: Women's Human Rights Remain a Dead Letter: No Progress Towards the Realization of Women's Rights After the Ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (March 1997) AI Index: ASA 33/07/97.
Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women on 12 March 1996, with the reservation that no provision which conflicts with the Constitution of Pakistan would be adopted, which has resulted in no effective steps being taken by the government to end discrimination against women. The Zina Ordinance, which criminalizes zina (heterosexual relations between consenting adults outside marriage), is widespread and is considered to be in breach of the requirements of the Convention.
- 3. Amnesty International. Pakistan: No Progress on Women's Rights (September 1998) AI Index: ASA 33/13/98.
This follow-up report notes that the government still hasn't acted on their commitments since the 1997 report and conditions have not improved for women. Abuses to women's rights remain widespread and underreported and there are still numerous cases of women threatened or killed for marrying men of their choice or prosecuted under zina law.
- 4. Canada, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
In the section entitled
“safety and security”in this advisory report for Canadians travelling to Pakistan, there is a warning of forced marriage and an acknowledgement that forced marriages are contrary to Canadian law. Contact numbers are included for those fearing forced marriage or who are subjected to it abroad.
“Pak cops break up forced marriage deal”Asia Africa Intelligence Wire (27 July 2002).
Pakistani police intervened to cancel the forced marriage of two teenage girls to elderly men in exchange for saving the girls' relatives from execution and the men were forced to divorce their wives.
In the forced marriage case of Shahnaz Akhter, the Lahore High Court ruled that a woman cannot be forced to live with her husband against her will.
“Pakistani girls saved from marriage in exchange for buffalos”Agence France Presse (14 June 2006).
A Pakistani court barred the forced marriage of two girls, aged six and eight, into a rival family to compensate for a dispute over payment of three buffalos. This marriage was similar to the tradition of vani, which involves giving away girls to be married at puberty in order to settle local feuds, a practice which has been outlawed in Pakistan but continues in remote areas.
Women's rights in Turkey are improving in part due to
pressure the Turkish government is exerting to meet higher standards in order
to join the European Union.
Turkey removed the mitigating factor of
“honour killings” in the summer of 2004, which
means that individuals sentenced for murder will no longer be able to plead
“extenuating” circumstances to receive a lighter sentence. However, under
Turkish law rapists can still have their sentences suspended or cancelled by
marrying their victims. Although consent is necessary for marriage under the
Turkish Civil Code, marriages still occur without the free and full consent of
- 1. Beattie, Meriel.
Women in Turkey are often forced by their family to marry their rapists so as not to bring shame on their family because they are no longer virgins, a UN study looking at the motivations behind
“honour killings”revealed. A rapist who marries his victim will have his sentence suspended, and it will be completely cancelled if he stays with her for five years. However, a new penal code makes
“honour killings”punishable with life sentences.
- 2. Cambrensis, Giraldus.
In order to accede to the European Union, Turkey was forced to remove the mitigating factor of
“honour killings”in the summer of 2004. Now an individual sentenced for this crime will be treated as a murderer rather than the lighter sentence which was previously given if
“extenuating”circumstances were pleaded. Although the government has instituted campaigns to prevent domestic violence, the implementation of laws proposed to protect women has been slow.
- 3. Ilkkaracan,
“Exploring the Context of Women's Sexuality in Eastern Turkey”Reproductive Health Matters 6:12 (November 1998) 66.
This article examines consent to marriage, marriage customs, polygyny and potential consequences of extra-marital relationships for women in Eastern Turkey. When couples did not arrange the marriage themselves, 50% were married without their consent even though consent is necessary under the Turkish Civil Code. However, a greater percentage of those who are still unmarried believe they would have a say in their marriage partner.
5.4 North America
5.4.1 United States
The United States has now recognized that forced marriage is gender-based persecution which can
give rise to a claim for asylum, although claims are often decided based on
what some see as stereotypical norms. Volpp's article discusses how forced
marriage is seen as a
“cultural” practice only when it involves minorities,
although it also occurs among the white American population.
- 1. Cronin,
Elizabeth and Elizabeth Badger.
“Refuge for a bought bride”New Jersey L.J. (24 April 2006).
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a precedent-setting opinion on 3 March 2006 in Gao v. Gonzales, 440 F.3d 62, (2d Cir.), recognizing that forced marriage could give rise to a claim for asylum. The social group which the victim had established she feared persecution
“on account of”was young women who have been sold into marriage
“and who live in a part of China where forced marriages are considered valid and enforceable.”
- 2. Oxford, Connie G.
“Protectors and victims in the gender regime of asylum”(2005), 17:3 NWSA Journal 18(21)
Immigrant women can seek political asylum and gain entry into the US as a result of gender-based persecution, which includes female circumcision, rape, domestic violence, coercive family planning, honour killings, forced marriage, and repressive social norms. Although this is an advance for women fleeing gendered harm, a study found that most of these asylum claims are based on stereotypes of ethnocentric norms, and not on the actual situation of the refugees, and thus could victimize migrant women.
- 3. Volpp, Leti.
“Blaming Culture for Bad Behaviour”(2000), 12Yale J. L. & Human. 89.
Volpp discusses how actions of Caucasians are not deemed
“cultural”practices, whereas the same actions of minorities are, and forced marriage and child marriage are used as examples. Two cases are examined: the
“Kingston case”, where a 16 year old Caucasian girl in Utah was forced to marry her older uncle, and the
“Al-Saidy case”, where two sisters aged 13 and 14 were forced by their Iraqi immigrant father to marry 28 and 34 year old men in Nebraska. The Al-Saidy case was argued as a conflict between cultural mores and US law whereas forced adolescent marriages occurring in white American communities are not viewed as cultural phenomena.
Australia's Justice Minister announced that under the new legislation in force as of August 3, 2005, trafficking young girls overseas for forced marriage is a criminal offence. Provisions in the Criminal Code Amendment include new and revised offences that comprehensively criminalise trafficking in persons activity, and trafficking in children under 18 is now punishable by a period of up to 25 years imprisonment. Australian embassies abroad report handling numerous cases of forced marriage, many involving minors. Ambassadors try to assist Australian citizens who approach them alleging a forced marriage by escorting them to court, a police station, and the airport, aiding them with airline reservations, and assisting in annulment procedures for underage marriages.
- 1. Arab Resource Collective.
The article indicates that seven of the twelve young girls who have sought the Australian embassy's help in Beirut, Lebanon between 2003 and 2005 were minors under sixteen. The Australian embassy can help girls facing coercion into forced marriage by escorting them to court, a police station and the airport, aiding them with airline reservations, and aiding them in seeking an annulment of an underage marriage.
- 2. Harris, Trudy.
Reports that the Australian embassy in Lebanon has handled 12 cases of forced marriage in the past two years. The report suggests that many Muslims in Australia decline to integrate fully into Australian society and remain isolated in their traditional culture, and girls are brought up knowing they will be married off at a young age. Marriage is seen as a way of
“controlling”girls who risk becoming too
“Australian”or sexually promiscuous.
- 3. Mercer, Phil.
The Justice Minister announced that trafficking young girls overseas for forced marriage is tantamount to sexual trafficking and will be an offence under the new legislation. This offence could see offenders jailed for up to 25 years. The minister also announced that forcing children into marriage in foreign countries will not be tolerated.
This media release from the Minister for Justice and Customs outlines the new laws which came into force August 3, 2005 to combat the practice of sending underage Australian children overseas to enter forced marriages. Provisions in the Criminal Code Amendment included new and revised offences that criminalise trafficking in persons activity, and trafficking in children under 18 is now punishable by up to 25 yrs imprisonment.
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