Tag Archives: Forced Marriage

Forced marriage in South Africa

A good news story (in some ways) from South Africa where the  Commission for Gender Equality intervened to save a young girl from being forcibly married to a man much older than herself. The sad part of the story is that it is still happening, and the religious leaders who were putting pressure on the family to do this should be prosecuted, but well done to the CGE!


Authorities save teen from forced marriage

Johannesburg – A KwaZulu-Natal teenager has been taken from her parents who were allegedly planning to marry her off to an older man, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) said on Monday.

“The department of social welfare has removed the child, 14, from her home until such time that a social worker… has ascertained the safety of the child,” the CGE said in a statement.

“In terms of both the Sexual Offences Act and the Children’s Act, the CGE pointed out to both the parents and the suitor that should this marriage proceed, they would be arrested and prosecuted.”

The commission received a anonymous complaint in November that the teenager, from KwaMthandeni, was to marry a man older than 40 on 16 December.

The girl would replace her 20-year-old sister, who had been chosen by the man.

“Upon finding [out] that she is pregnant by another man, the sister ran off… The suitor and [her] family agreed that the younger sister should take her place,” the CGE said.

A team of social workers and policemen verified the story, found the child and spoke to the family and the suitor about calling off the marriage.

“The family and suitor confirmed that the man had paid R29 500 towards lobola and wanted either his money back or another girl.”

Rituals had been done and the wedding day had been arranged.

“The girl’s family said they were not very keen to marry the child off, but religious leaders from their church put pressure on them,” the CGE said.

“The girl’s mother said, as a woman, she did not have much say in the matter,” it said.


Forced Marriage Legislation

I see today in the Guardian and Independent there is an ongoing debate about government plans in Britain to introduce legislation which would criminalise the act of forcing another person into marriage.  Australia too is at the moment introducing similar legislation in a bundle of laws dealing with forced marriage, slavery within the sex industry and organ trafficking. 

In Britain the situation is such that forced marriage is prohibited in Scotland but the practice of making someone marry against their will is not currently illegal in England and Wales. Although there  are  “Forced Marriage Orders”. These are restraining orders against a family and allow police e.g. to confiscate the victim’s passport so that they cannot be taken out of the country for the purposes of marriage.

There are many issues here:

  • Whether the introduction of these laws will first and foremost protect the victims by acting as a deterrent to parents who impose this on their children;
  • Or whether it will drive the issue underground as some commentators are suggesting;
  • Whether or not this crime, for surely it is a crime of the first order,  is in fact already covered by laws relating to Abduction, Rape, Coercion, Kidnapping and the like;
  • There is no doubt that this is a reality for many – last year in Britain the police dealt with approximately 1600 cases of forced marriage. Surveys suggest that the numbers are a lot higher, with estimates as high as 6000.

I am not decided yet on the issue – my instinct would be that those girls and boys forced into marriage need every possible protection, and that legislation is surely one of those that is needed. But the question needs to be asked as to whether this legislation will help to break down the wall of silence behind which these horrendous acts take place, or if it will only increase its height?

Sameem Ali. now a Labour Party Councillor and a victim of forced marriage herself at age 13, says it will force the issue underground. She says, “But the legislation will make victims of forced marriage point the finger at their own parents. What young person is going to want to do that? To say those things about their own mum and dad, who they love.’

IN other European countries however where this has been criminalised there seem to have been positive effects: ‘Since Denmark criminalised forced marriage in 2008, a Copenhagen-based organisation, LOKKreported an increase in young people coming forward. Other grass root organisations in countries which have criminalised forced marriage have seen a 50% increase in the reporting of forced marriage.’ (The Independent)

Sameem Ali