Tuesday 26 November 2013

The Truth about Forced Marriage.

People often confuse arranged marriages with forced marriages but the two are entirely different. An arranged marriage is usually arranged by the spouse’s parents, but the marriage itself still takes place between two consenting adults. However, a forced marriage is one where one or more of the marriage party is being forced or coerced into the marriage against their will. The victims of such marriages are usually young girls, forced to marry men up to four times their own age. These girls then often face a lifetime of abuse and neglect, giving birth to their first child while they themselves are still children. That is, of course, if they survive that long.

Incredibly, every three seconds a girl is married under 18. This is especially dangerous in developing countries where pregnancy and childbirth is the leading cause of death for girls between 15 and 19 and a leading cause of school drop-out.

According to the Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) - marriage before the age of 18 should not be allowed since children don’t have the ‘full maturity and capacity to act’. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights also states that marriage should be ‘entered only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses’.

However, in many countries, particularly developing countries, forced marriage of young girls is extremely commonplace due to poverty, the importance placed on family honour, and the belief that a girl’s education is not good investment.

Charities around the world have done much to end forced marriage by improving education for girls and increasing awareness of girls’ rights. The UK government has also done much to help, with the setting up of the Forced Marriage Unit to provide practical support, information and advice to anyone who has been through or is at risk of a forced marriage. As of November 2013, a Bill to make forced marriage a criminal offence is in the latest stage at the House of Lords. However, it is still not enough.

Forced marriage is a global phenomenon but is most prevalent in Africa and Southern Asia. British citizens are also at risk, either by being forced to marry in the UK or being taken abroad and forced to marry there. Physical and emotional abuse as well as the threat of disownment are most often used in order to coerce someone into a forced marriage. More rarely, but still in use, is the murder of the refusing party in an ‘honour killing’. Most cases of forced marriage involving British nationals comprise of South Asian families, as well as some East Asian, Middle Eastern, European and African families.

Forced marriage is the denial of basic human rights. It prevents that person making their own life choices and deciding their own future, while denying them an education and often condemning them to a lifetime of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Charities and governments the world over are continuing to do what they can to end forced marriage, but at the moment there is no end in sight. Visit http://www.plan-uk.org/early-and-forced-marriage/ for more information.  

*  Guest post courtesy of Plan UK *

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