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A new law in England and Wales could mean that parents who force their children to marry will be jailed. An estimated 8,000 young women per year in the UK are forced into marriages. The law is designed to distinguish the difference between forced marriages and arranged marriages where the parties involved give their consent and are able to refuse to marry the selected spouse if they don’t want to.
A government advertising campaign will also highlight the right of the individual to choose who they want to marry. A similar law has been recently put into place in Scotland in November, which gave the courts the power to issue a protection order to anyone they felt who was at risk.
What is a Forced Marriage?
A forced marriage is any marriage when one or both of the parties does not consent to the union and is married against his or her will. This is different than the tradition that exists in many cultures of an arranged marriage. The arranged marriage is when both parties involved in the marriage have consented to having the assistance of their parents or a third party to identify their spouse. However, the line between the two is easily blurred which makes it difficult to distinguish.
In fact, some scholars don’t use the term “forced marriage” because it uses the term marriage which is supposed to be a consensual union between husband and wife. Instead, they suggest a term such as “conjugal slavery”.
According to the United Nations, forced marriage is a form of human rights abuse. This type of marriage violates the human right of freedom and of autonomy of the individuals involved. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a woman should have the right to choose her spouse and enter freely into a marriage that is her decision. This is central to the dignity and equality of her life as a human being.
The Negative Consequences of Forced Marriages
When a girl is forced into a marriage, she is much more likely to experience negative consequences such as abuse, violence and forced sexual encounters. The younger the forced bride is, the more likely they are to be dominated by their older husband. There are also negative consequences on the girl’s sexual and reproductive health.
Also, many girls who are forced into marriage at a young age don’t have a chance to get an education. They are very likely to be illiterate and will probably drop out of school as soon as they get married.
Forced Marriages in the UK
The new laws against forced marriages in the UK are already helping numerous young women to escape this fate. A two year old girl, thought to be the youngest victim in the UK, was helped last year. Over 1,400 cases were supported by the Forced Marriage Unit in 2012. However, there is still work to do. Contact Plan UK now – – to find out how you can aid in the fight to end forced marriage in the UK as well as throughout the world.