Forced Marriage

Last Updated March 2015

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

Forced Marriage

Legislation should criminalize forced marriage and all the forms it may assume, including child marriage, levirate marriage, sororate marriage and widow inheritance. Criminal laws should specifically prohibit any institution or practice where a widow may be inherited by another person or where a sister is forced to marry her brother-in-law or other relative. Legislation should define forced marriage broadly, including free and full consent provisions. Legislation should punish those who perpetrate, aid or authorize these types of forced marriages.

See the Forced and Child Marriage section of this module for more information.


Promising Practice: Norway’s Penal Code (2003) punishes forced marriage as a felony against personal liberty. Sec. 222(2) states that “Any person who by force, deprivation of liberty, improper pressure or any other unlawful conduct or by threats of such conduct forces anyone to enter into a marriage shall be guilty of causing a forced marriage. The penalty for causing a forced marriage is imprisonment for a term not exceeding six years. Any person who aids and abets such an offence shall be liable to the same penalty.”

Criminal laws should grade the crime of forced marriage based on harm to the victim and aggravating factors. Aggravating factors may include offenses that accompany or are used to effect the forced marriage, such as kidnapping, child abduction, false imprisonment, assault, battery, threats of violence or death, breach of the peace or conduct that disrupts the public order, harassment, child abuse, rape, sexual crimes, blackmail, and violations of protection orders. Drafters should ensure these offenses also constitute offenses under the criminal code.

Drafters should ensure that such criminal laws supersede customary laws that that may conflict with these provisions.