A forced marriage occurs when an individual is forced to enter into a marriage against her will and without her consent. A forced marriage differs from an arranged marriage, in which families arrange meetings between children in the hopes of fostering a voluntary relationship that will lead to marriage. In these situations, while the initial meetings are arranged by the families and a marriage is encouraged, the ultimate decision to marry remains with the couple. In contrast, in a forced marriage situation, the woman is threatened or coerced into marrying someone against her will, and may suffer honor violence if she resists or refuses the marriage.
Forced marriage has several important parallels with human trafficking. Each year, thousands of girls are removed from U.S. schools and forced to return to their families’ home countries in order to be married. Girls who resist or refuse these marriages may be subjected to physical and emotional abuse, confinement in the home, or even death at the hands of family members. Once married, victims experience include increased rates of infant and maternal mortality, rape, domestic violence and suicide. The coercion, exploitation and ongoing violence involved in these scenarios mirrors the key traits of human trafficking.