What is it?
A forced marriage takes place without the full and free consent of one or both parties. Forced marriage can happen to an individual of any gender, age, ethnicity, and cultural or religious background. A forced marriage may be one that is threatened, or one that has already taken place. Forced marriages involving U.S. victims can happen, either in the U.S. or when the individual is taken abroad. Factors behind forced marriages are complex and varied, but may include economic concerns, cultural norms, or family agreements.
What’s the impact?
As many as 3,000 known or suspected cases of forced marriage were encountered in a two-year period all across the United States, according to a 2011 Tahirih survey of more than 500 respondents from 47 U.S. states. Respondents included attorneys, social workers, teachers, counselors, police, and other professionals.
Victims of forced marriage face severe and lifelong consequences, including physical, sexual, and economic abuse, medical and mental health problems, denial of education, and a loss of freedom to choose and make their own futures. Forced marriage is an issue that can impact individuals of any gender, age, religion, or cultural background, and our survey found cases among families and communities from at least 56 different countries. The survey also found only 16% of respondents felt equipped to help individuals facing a forced marriage, and too many victims are falling through the cracks.
What protections are available?
In response to the urgent need for services to help individuals fleeing and at risk of forced marriage in the United States, and to galvanize a coordinated national response to the problem, Tahirih launched the Forced Marriage Initiative in 2011.