About Arranged/Forced Marriage

WHAT IS ARRANGED/FORCED MARRIAGE?

In a typical arranged/forced marriage, the bride and groom’s families arrange the union, sometimes with the help of a matchmaker. Families vary widely on how much choice they then give the bride and groom about whether to marry each other.

IS “ARRANGED” DIFFERENT FROM “FORCED”?

Sometimes a bride and/or a groom is forced to marry without any say in the matter. Yet even when the bride and groom get the option to reject a match, often they face intense pressure from their families and society not to do so; often, too, they are young and inexperienced and are not given the time or tools they need to make an informed decision. Sometimes they are also tricked, threatened or beaten until they agree to a marriage.

Differentiating between an “arranged marriage” and a “forced marriage” often is impossible.

HOW COMMON IS IT IN THE US?

Few studies have been done about arranged/forced marriage in the US, so exact statistics are unknown. Unchained estimates that hundreds of thousands of women and girls in the US are in arranged/forced marriages, in Orthodox Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Sikh, Asian, African and other communities.

A 2011 survey by the Tahirih Justice Center found 3,000 known or suspected cases in the previous two years alone of girls in the US as young as 15 who were forced to marry under threats of death, beatings or ostracism.

WHY IS UNCHAINED NECESSARY?

Women and girls — often teenagers — who try to resist an arranged/forced marriage often risk ostracism and violence.

And once women are in a marriage they did not choose, their options again are limited: Often they are stymied by religious laws and social customs that make divorce difficult, especially for women. Often women who want to leave an arranged/forced marriage are shunned by their family and friends, who view divorce as shameful. Those who were brought to the US as part of an arranged/forced marriage often are constrained, too, by their own immigration status.

Unchained At Last is the only nonprofit in the US dedicated to helping women and girls resist or leave arranged/forced marriages.