“O you who believe, it is not lawful for you to inherit women against their will, nor should you detain them wrongfully…” [4:19]
According to the Crown Prosecution Service over 10,000 forced marriages take place in the UK every year.
Forced marriages are not the same as arranged marriages, where you can decide on whether to accept the arrangement or not. They are agreed against a person’s will, and the unwilling party, usually the woman, is coerced to follow through. Islam promotes love and compatibility between husband and wife, and regards marriage as a right of the individual; Islam does not support in any way a marriage where either the man or woman has not consented.
Additionally, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that marriage should be ‘entered only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses’.
Some people are tricked into visiting their family's country of origin for a holiday, only to find that there are plans to get them married there. Even though they are abroad, victims still have the right to legal protection and the local British embassy will get involved if the victim, or someone they know, informs them or the UK's Forced Marriage Unit about their situation.
Making the contact could involve some risk for the victim, therefore visitors are advised to leave details of their passport, flights and overseas residence with a trusted friend in the UK and contact the Foreign Office before they travel.
The UK's Forced Marriage Unit outlines the following reasons why people coerce others into matrimony:
To control unwanted behaviour and sexuality, and prevent 'unsuitable' relationships, i.e. with people outside their ethnic, cultural, caste or religious group
To protect perceived cultural or religious ideals
Family 'honour' or long-standing family commitments
To ensure land, property and wealth remain in the family
To strengthen family links and assist claims for residence/citizenship
Sadly some people use their power of authority and cultural understanding to arrange such marriages, and then hide behind the religion of Islam to justify their actions. This issue is not limited to Muslims, but one must recognize that forced marriage is a problem occurring today and Islam condemns it to the highest degree.
Under the coalition government a new law was introduced in June 2014, which now makes forcing someone to marry against their will a criminal offence, and the maximum penalty is 7 years’ imprisonment in a criminal court.
Forced Marriage Unit National Helpline: 020 7008 0151 - 9a.m. to 5p.m. Monday to Friday
For out of hours emergencies call 020 7008 1500
An edited version of this article was published in The Invitation magazine