France Steps Up Efforts to Prevent Forced Marriage
Wednesday, October 14, 2009 11:35 AM

The French government is working to halt the practice of forced marriage. Every year over the summer holiday, women and girls of Asian, African, and Middle Eastern descent are sent abroad to their countries of origin and forced into marriage. According to Reuters, a report from the High Council for Integration estimates that as many as 70,000 women and girls are at risk of becoming victims of forced marriages. 

Family pressure prevents many victims from seeking help in avoiding or terminating forced marriages. Paris City Hall has trained officials to identify victims of forced marriages, but that training is unlikely to help women who are sent abroad to marry, or who are afraid to speak out about their situation.

Since most victims are in school or college, activists opposed to forced marriage are encouraging the government to create an early warning system for identifying young women who fail to return to school at the end of the summer. Britain already has a law enforcement unit dedicated to tracking down forced marriage victims. Until the French government takes further action, activists in the country will continue to rely on informal networks of family, friends, and the victims themselves to find and help individuals in forced marriages.

Compiled from: Sophie Hardach, "New School Year Puts French on Forced Marriage Alert," Reuters (2 September 2009).