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Forced Marriage: A Basic Human Rights Violation

When we think of domestic violence, the first thing that generally pops into our minds is physical abuse within the home.  We know however, that domestic violence encompasses much more than this, including emotional and verbal abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, isolation, intimidation, etc.  What about other practices we seem to turn a blind eye to, such as a forced marriage?  Does this count as domestic violence?  Does this even happen in the United States?

The answer to both of these questions is yes.

All over the world, including the United States, millions of women and young girls (and men) are coerced, pressured, tricked, and threatened by men, family members, and other members of the community into a marriage against their will.  There are often many cultural aspects that are integrated into this practice.  For example, in a family that is buried under large amounts of financial strain, the release of a daughter to another family may mean the relief of an economic burden (The Advocates for Human Rights, 2010).  A marriage of one’s daughter may also solidify class status within the community, which is extremely important to many different cultures.   This strive for status is so significant for some cultures that any implication that the young woman does not want to be married (or an attempt to escape the marriage) can be grounds for ostracism or other kinds of honor violence (Unchained At Last, 2017, “About…”).

According to Unchained At Last, a New Jersey organization dedicated to helping women and girls leave forced marriages, forced marriages often lead to a “lifetime of rape, beatings, and domestic servitude” (Unchained At Last, 2017, “A Human…”).  Forced marriages also produce a large amount of physical, psychological, emotional, medical, financial, and legal effects.  Among these are isolation from family and friends, discontinuation of education, no financial independence, and sometimes when the marriage goes unregistered, the victim is legally unable obtain protection to separate/divorce (The Advocates for Human Rights, 2010). 

More often than not, the victim feels trapped and terrified to reach for help.  So, what can we do as a society?  First, become aware of the prevalence.  Unchained At Last states that in 2011, there were 3,000 cases since 2009 of girls in the U.S. as young as 15 who were threatened with death, physical violence, or ostracism, and forced into marriage.  This is already an astounding number, but think about the level of fear for many girls and women; similar to those suffering from domestic violence, many may be too afraid to report such horrible abuse, so this number is guaranteed to be much lower than the reality.  Now that we can envision just how often this may be occurring within our own country, it is important to become educated and motivated to make it stop.  Obtain resources about forced marriage; volunteer at hotlines, shelters, and schools; start conversations with peers…you may be unaware that someone you know or even see on the street is trapped in an abusive marriage, and that she needs our help.


The Advocates for Human Rights. (2010). Forced and Child Marriage. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from http://www.stopvaw.org/forced_and_child_marriage

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About This Blog

Safe+Sound Somerset staff members author this blog to provoke conversations about the impact of domestic abuse in our society.

About This Blog

Safe+Sound Somerset staff members author this blog to provoke conversations about the impact of domestic abuse in our society.


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