What Is Forced Marriage

“When they started planning for me to marry someone I didn’t even know…I decided at 22 that this was not going to be me.”

– Aruna* (A survivor)

A forced marriage is one that takes place without the full and free consent of one or both parties. A person denied his or her right to choose whether, when, and whom to marry is likely to suffer related harm such as psychological, sexual, and physical abuse.

Forced marriage is a human rights violation that impacts communities around the world. It can happen to a person of any race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, or national origin. It impacts people of all economic and educational backgrounds.

In the United States, forced marriage is a serious but neglected problem. As many as 3,000 known or suspected cases of forced marriage were encountered by service providers in the United States over a period of just two years.

The Tahirih Justice Center Forced Marriage Initiative offers assistance to anyone who is fleeing a forced marriage regardless of age, race, class, gender, immigration status, nationality, sexual orientation, or religion. We partner with survivors and other advocates to end to forced marriage in the United States through direct services, education, outreach, and public policy advocacy.

Why Forced Marriages Happen

The motivations behind forced marriage are complex and varied. A common justification is adherence to custom or tradition, and the desire to preserve these elements through control over whether, when, and whom a person marries. Sometimes a marriage is seen as necessary to prevent any behavior that might bring shame or dishonor to the family, such as becoming “too westernized,” engaging in sexual activity, or going against other family expectations as well as immigration or economic reasons. Rarely is there a single motivating factor, and often the reasons are complicated and intertwined.

Forced Marriage Fact Sheet

Click here to view and print our Forced Marriage Fact Sheet which provides helpful definitions and an overview of the issue.

Forced Marriage Initiative Brochure

Click here to view and print our Forced Marriage Initiative brochure which provides information on forced marriage in the United States as well as guidance and safety tips for survivors and an overview of services offered by the Forced Marriage Initiative at Tahirih Justice Center.