For many people arranged and forced marriages are one and the same thing, but there is a clear distinction between the two. In an arranged marriage, the topic of marriage is freely discussed, and prospective partners are identified and introduced. The decision to accept or reject these proposals remains with the two intending spouses throughout. Only when they have agreed do the families take a leading role in making the arrangements. A forced marriage is very different, the topic of marriage is hardly discussed, there is often only one prospective partner, the opinion of the two intending spouses is rarely sought or considered, and there is usually an element of duress. There are many types of duress, including emotional, psychological, financial, physical and on occasion sexual abuse. False imprisonment, kidnap and abduction can also feature in a forced marriage.
Incomprehensible it may be, but most of the families who subscribe to this practice believe they are only doing what is right for their child. The families have a vast array of reasons for forcing young people into marriage some of which are promises made in childhood, immigration, keeping land and property within the family, maintaining cultural traditions, controlling unwanted behaviours, preventing unsuitable relationships, reducing the likelihood of sexually transmitted infections, providing a carer for a disabled person, family honour and misplaced religious beliefs.
Religion and faith are often used to justify this type of abuse, however no world faith condones forcing someone into marriage, in fact, the main religions of the world such as Christianity, (all denominations), Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, and Islam all condemn this practice. Islam is the faith most commonly associated with forced marriage, but its perspective towards this subject is very clear. In Islam an arranged marriage is acceptable, the consent of the woman is essential and must be obtained and any marriage which is forced is considered to be null and void.
At present it is not illegal to force someone to marry, however perpetrators may be charged for associated crimes of kidnapping, false imprisonment, physical abuse and rape. However, the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act came into being on November 25th 2008, which allows individuals and/or relevant third parties to apply to the courts for a Forced Marriage Protection Order. This order contains legally binding conditions and directions that require a change in the behaviour of a person or persons trying to force another person into marriage. The main aim of the act is to protect those who are most vulnerable and likely to be forced into marriage, and orders can be obtained from the courts in emergency situations to protect the individual immediately. If someone disobeys the order they can be arrested and brought to courts where the judge has a whole range of sanctions available to them, including up to two years imprisonment if found in contempt of court.
Aside from this we all have a moral and ethical duty to help those in society who are in need. Prior to the new Act, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights could be cited to help and support those who are at risk. The Declaration states:
& Article 16…
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