Forced marriages during the vacation season

Summer vacations have begun for many young people. The time to enjoy life in a beautiful place. But that is not the case for boys and girls who are forced to marry a cousin in their home country.

Every year, boys and girls are left behind in a foreign country to marry a partner they do not want. Coercion of marriage, especially of minors, is a gross violation of human rights and causes unfathomable misery for the victims.

Taking someone abroad to force them to marry is a crime within the European Union, punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros.

Exact figures are not available, but it happens to at least thousands of European young people every year, often during a "vacation." In May 2022, for example, two Spanish-Pakistani sisters were shot dead by their in-laws while on vacation in Pakistan because of problems surrounding their forced marriages and their husbands' desire to emigrate to Europe.

Outsiders can do something if they suspect young people are being forced into marriage, argues author and social worker Celal Altunas.

Marriage coercion occurs in cultures where collective values and norms outweigh individual desires. This includes child marriages. These still occur in Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Morocco, Syria and Somalia, among others.

Feeling powerless

When confronted with this phenomenon, as an outsider you may feel a sense of powerlessness. But don't give in to it, because sometimes something can be done about it, even if the victims are already abroad.

Each case is different and requires specialist knowledge that is available in many European countries. Victims can share their personal story with specialists and ask for appropriate advice.
United Kingdom:

Never capitulate

Success is not guaranteed, each case requires its own strategy. Stay calm, seek advice from specialists and never capitulate. Don't think: they are there, there is nothing more we can do. Or it's part of their culture and it's dangerous. Keep fighting. With the right approach and expert advice, you can often still help girls and boys in such an emergency situation.

What is an honour killing?

An honour killing is a murder in the name of honour. If a brother murders his sister to restore family honour, it is an honour killing. According to activists, the most common reasons for honour killings are as the victim:

Questions about honour killings

  • refuses to cooperate in an arranged marriage.

  • wants to end the relationship.

  • was the victim of rape or sexual assault.

  • was accused of having a sexual relationship outside of marriage.

Human rights activists believe that 100,000 honour killings are carried out every year, most of which are not reported to the authorities and some are even deliberately covered up by the authorities themselves, for example because the perpetrators are good friends with local policemen, officials or politicians. Violence against girls and women remains a serious problem in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Serbia and Turkey.

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