Forced Marriage in the U.S.

*Adeela, a 17-year-old high school student from Atlanta, was under intense pressure to drop out of school and marry a man chosen by her parents. While Adeela hated the idea of leaving school and marrying a stranger she didn’t love, she knew that if she refused, she would face physical punishment or even death.

Adeela confided in her cousin, Prema, who was in a forced marriage. Even though Prema managed to get a divorce, she understood the risks her cousin faced. Prema also knew she was Adeela’s only hope, which is why she turned to the AHA Foundation for help.

Working with law enforcement, the AHA Foundation was able to help Adeela get a legal order of protection to keep her parents from harming her and move both to a new, undisclosed location where she and her cousin would be safe from their family and community members.

*Names and identifying details have been changed.

What is a forced marriage?

A forced marriage occurs when an individual is forced, coerced, threatened, or tricked to marry without her informed consent. If an individual refuses a forced marriage, they may be subjected to honor violence.


How is this different from an arranged marriage?

In many cultures, it is customary for families to arrange meetings between their children in the hopes of fostering a voluntary relationship that will lead to a marriage. In such situations, the ultimate decision regarding whether to marry remains with the couple. In contrast, in a forced marriage, an individual is threatened and/or coerced by her family to enter into the marriage against her will and may suffer honor violence if she resists or refuses the marriage.


Do forced marriages occur in the US?

According to a survey conducted by the Tahirih Justice Center, approximately 3,000 known or suspected forced marriages occurred in the US over a two-year period. The AHA Foundation conducted a study in partnership with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice looking at forced marriage in New York City. The researchers interviewed CUNY students whose families originated from countries with a high incidence of forced marriage on their experiences with relationships and marriage. Of those students interviewed, 84% knew of at least one person in their social circle who did not want to marry their partner but did so anyway. The likely reason for this disconnect is family conflict over marital choice.
 

What is a forced marriage?

A forced marriage occurs when an individual is forced, coerced, threatened, or tricked to marry without her informed consent. If an individual refuses a forced marriage, they may be subjected to honor violence.


How is this different from an arranged marriage?

In many cultures, it is customary for families to arrange meetings between their children in the hopes of fostering a voluntary relationship that will lead to a marriage. In such situations, the ultimate decision regarding whether to marry remains with the couple. In contrast, in a forced marriage, an individual is threatened and/or coerced by her family to enter into the marriage against her will and may suffer honor violence if she resists or refuses the marriage.


Do forced marriages occur in the US?

According to a survey conducted by the Tahirih Justice Center, approximately 3,000 known or suspected forced marriages occurred in the US over a two-year period. The AHA Foundation conducted a study in partnership with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice looking at forced marriage in New York City. The researchers interviewed CUNY students whose families originated from countries with a high incidence of forced marriage on their experiences with relationships and marriage. Of those students interviewed, 84% knew of at least one person in their social circle who did not want to marry their partner but did so anyway. The likely reason for this disconnect is family conflict over marital choice.