Forced marriage in the UK: Religious, cultural, economic or state violence?

Chantler, Khatidja orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-9129-2560, Gangoli, Geetanjali and Hester, Marianne (2009) Forced marriage in the UK: Religious, cultural, economic or state violence? Critical Social Policy, 29 (4). pp. 587-612. ISSN 0261-0183

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Our paper is based on a qualitative empirical study of forced marriage in the UK and offers a multidimensional view which challenges four key points that are currently central in the forced marriage debate.
First, the study explores the problematic of current UK and European Union policies on preventing forced marriage which focus on raising the age of sponsorship and marriage age for non-EU nationals migrating to the UK. Second, current conceptualizations of forced marriage focus on consent at the entry point into marriage. In contrast, survivors of forced marriage, and women’s organizations experienced in providing services to this group, both attach equal importance to exiting (forced) marriages. Third, within the forced marriage debate, South Asian and Muslim communities are perceived as being largely responsible for forced marriages, whilst our research demonstrates that the range of communities in which forced marriage occurs is much wider. Fourth, forced marriage is often seen as a product of a ‘backward’ culture or religion in a pathologizing manner. The narratives in our study illustrate the interplay between culture, religion, poverty and state practices including immigration practices which points to the need for a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of forced marriage. We end our paper by outlining measures that could be put into place to support women experiencing forced marriage.

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