Definition of Forced Marriage

last updated December 2014

 

In partnership with UN Women, The Advocates for Human Rights created the following sections for UN Women's Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls. This section, along with sections addressing other forms of violence against women and girls, may be found under Legislation at www.endvawnow.org.


Definition of Forced Marriage    

  • When constructing the definition of forced marriage, drafters should consider how to define and establish consent in forced marriages. Drafters may look to other states’ laws, which have used terms, such as “free,” “full,” “mutual,” “voluntary,” and “informed,” to describe consent. Laws should include the following elements in a definition of consent: free, informed, and not extracted under pressure or vitiated by external factors, such as constraint. Drafters may wish to include legal commentary explaining that consent is absent when family members use “coercive methods such as pressure of various kinds, emotional blackmail, physical duress, violence, abduction, confinement and confiscation of official papers” in an arranged marriage, thus denying one or both parties the option of refusal. (See: Explanatory memorandum, Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Section II.A.1.b.16-17, 2005)
  • Legislation should state that levirate and sororate marriages, which require a woman to marry her brother-in-law, constitute forced marriage and are prohibited. Levirate marriage is the forced marriage of a widow to the brother of her deceased husband; sororate marriage is the forced marriage of the sister of a deceased or infertile wife to marry or have sex with her brother-in-law, the widower/husband. Legislation should also address and prohibit polygamous marriages under the rubric of forced marriage.

(See: Forced and Child Marriage)