Forced marriage  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Forced marriage is a term used to describe a marriage in which one or more of the parties is married without his or her consent or against his or her will. A forced marriage differs from an arranged marriage, in which both parties consent to the assistance of their parents or a third party (such as a matchmaker) in identifying a spouse, although the difference between the two may be indistinct. The practice of forced marriage was very common amongst the upper classes in Europe until the 1900s, and is still practiced in parts of South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Forced marriages now in Western Europe and North America are generally committed within these migrant communities. In most but not all forced marriages, it is the female (rather than the male) who is the involuntary spouse.

Forced marriages are generally made because of family pride, the wishes of the parents, or social obligation. For example, according to Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, many forced marriages in Britain within the British Pakistani community are aimed at providing British citizenship to a member of the family currently in Pakistan to whom the instigator of the forced marriage feels a sense of duty. For example, a mother promised her sister that she would marry her daughter to her son before the daughter was even born.

The United Nations views forced marriage as a form of human rights abuse, since it violates the principle of the freedom and autonomy of individuals. The Roman Catholic Church deems forced marriage grounds for granting an annulment — for a marriage to be valid both parties must give their consent freely. Many Christian denominations consider forcing a person to marry someone a sin.

In response to the problem of forced marriages among immigrants in the UK, the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 was passed, which enables the victims of forced marriage to apply for court orders for their protection.

Historically, forced marriage was used to require a captive (slave or prisoner of war) to integrate with the host community, and accept his or her fate. One example is the English blacksmith John R. Jewitt, who spent 3 years as a captive of the Nootka people on the Pacific Northwest Coast in 1802-1805. He was ordered to marry, because the council of chiefs thought that a wife and family would reconcile him to staying with his captors for life. Jewitt was given a choice between forced marriage for himself and capital punishment for both him and his "father" (a fellow captive). "Reduced to this sad extremity, with death on the one side, and matrimony on the other, I thought proper to choose what appeared to me the least of the two evils" (p154).

Shotgun wedding

A shotgun wedding is a variety of forced marriage that is arranged to avoid embarrassment due to an unplanned pregnancy, rather than out of the desire of the participants. The phrase is an American colloquialism, though it is also used in other parts of the world, based on a supposed scenario (usually hyperbole) that the father of the pregnant daughter, almost by accepted custom, must resort to using coercion (such as threatening with a shotgun) to ensure that the man who impregnated her follows through with the wedding, sometimes even following the couple to the altar to prevent his escape.

The use of duress or violent coercion to marry is no longer common in the U.S., although many anecdotal stories and folk songs record instances of such coercion in 18th- and 19th-century America. Often a couple will arrange a shotgun wedding without explicit outside encouragement, and some religious teachings consider it a moral imperative to marry in that situation.

One purpose of such a wedding can be to get recourse from the male for the act of impregnation; another reason is to ensure that the child is raised by both parents. In some cases, as in early America and in the Middle East, a major objective was the restoring of social honor to the mother. The practice is also a loophole method of preventing the birth of legally illegitimate children or, if the marriage occurs early enough, to conceal that conception occurred before marriage. In some societies, the stigma attached to pregnancy out of wedlock can be enormous, and coercive means (in spite of the legal defense of undue influence) for gaining recourse are often seen as the prospective father-in-law's "right", and an important, albeit unconventional, coming of age event for the young father-to-be.

The phenomenon has become less common as the stigma associated with out-of-wedlock births has declined and the number of such births has increased; the increasing availability of abortion has also reduced the perceived need for such measures by allowing an unintended pregnancy to be readily terminated.

Sometimes a woman who marries while pregnant, regardless of the situation, is simply referred to as a "shotgun bride".

In Japan, the slang term 出来ちゃった結婚 dekichatta kekkon (a marriage necessitated by an unplanned pregnancy) emerged in the late 1990s with a very similar meaning, although the etymology of the term in Japanese does not imply the same threat of physical violence that the English idiom "shotgun marriage" does. The term dekichatta kekkon can be loosely translated as an "oops marriage" or an "it's-already-happened-marriage".

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Forced marriage" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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