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Forced Marriages Draw Attention in America

June 19, 2016
Plain English Version
Tahirih Justice Center

Tahirih Justice Center

Some societies observe the custom of arranged marriage. In those cultures, family matters more than one person’s choice. The weddings mean families joined by marriage will create a larger whole. They mean that young couples will benefit from similar backgrounds.

A forced marriage is different. It is less common and illegal in most countries. However, it is hard to define or prove. A daughter may be ordered to marry someone she may not know or like. It could be an older relative, a stranger or someone who is owed a debt.

Sometimes the girl does not even know it is happening. She may give in under pressure.

A recent study reported that there are as many as 1,500 suspected or confirmed cases of forced marriage in the U.S. a year. Forced marriage is found in many immigrant communities, especially among South Asians.

Some Asian-born parents seek to control and protect their Western-raised daughters, who yearn for a modern life-style. In these cultures, family duty and honor are important. Sometimes the families coerce the daughter. Or they use “emotional blackmail,” an expert said.

Most shelters and service agencies do not view such pressure as an abuse. They are not familiar with forced marriages. Local laws do not offer full protection, even if a girl is about to be flown abroad to marry against her will.

Advocates say that victims want a way to escape from intolerable, even if well-meaning, pressure to marry. There is no U.S. law against forced marriage. Many shelters and welfare agencies are unfamiliar with forced marriage. They are not able to help young women fleeing forced marriages.

Advocacy groups are forming to help young women. Women’s’ groups are trying to stop forced marriages. Groups are asking for a law similar to a new law in the United Kingdom that makes forced marriage a crime.

One expert said, “Many times, families are not interested in intervention. No one wants to talk about things like domestic violence or forced marriage. But talking about uncomfortable things is very much needed.”

Source: The Washington Post

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