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ABA leadership commits to helping U.S. forced marriage victims

FAST FACTS

WHAT: Policy-making body for the largest national association of attorneys in the United States passes resolution to tackle forced marriage in the U.S.

WHEN: The ABA House of Delegates passed the resolution on August 12, 2014.

WHY IT MATTERS: The resolution marks a pivotal recognition that forced marriage is not only a global problem, but also affects people in the U.S.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Click here to read the full ABA resolution

The American Bar Association House of Delegates, the policy-making body for the largest national association of attorneys in the United States, voted today to condemn forced marriage as a form of violence and a fundamental human rights violation.

The resolution, sponsored by the ABA’s Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence, marks a pivotal recognition that forced marriage is not only a global problem, but also affects people living in the United States.

“Today’s vote is a call to action for the legal community, including legislators and policy makers, and for active collaboration with leading NGO advocates to make sure victims don’t fall between the cracks of existing protections. Forced marriage is a serious form of abuse happening in the United States, and those who need help may have only one chance to reach out,” said Jeanne Smoot, Senior Counsel for Policy and Strategy at the Tahirih Justice Center.

Smoot drafted the forced marriage resolution and accompanying report, acting as a liaison to the ABA Commission from Tahirih and the National Network to Prevent Forced Marriage. Tahirih chairs the network, which has grown to nearly 400 members since Tahirih launched it in 2011.

The ABA’s resolution urges governments at all levels in the U.S. to amend existing laws, or to enact new laws, to prevent forced marriages and to protect individuals facing forced marriage threats. The ABA also called for collaboration with direct services and advocacy organizations with forced marriage expertise to develop victim-centered legal remedies, and to promote specialized training for judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, child protection authorities, victim-witness advocates, and attorneys.

Even before today’s vote, the resolution had garnered support from the ABA’s Center for Human Rights, Section of International Law, and Commission on Immigration, and many ABA members thanked the Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence for raising this important topic.

A 2011 national survey by Tahirih showed that as many as 3,000 cases of forced marriage were encountered by over 500 service providers across 47 states in just two years, and Tahirih has launched a national awareness-raising tour including 18 events in six cities in the coming months.

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