Arranged or forced marriage

Within research, there is no consensus regarding the terms forced marriage and arranged marriage. It is not easy to determine where the line between consent and coercion lies. Some research shows that young people who choose their partner together with their parents do not necessary feel like their individual freedom has been violated. Getting married for love does not have to be everyone’s wish, and it is not necessarily the case that there is no love involved when entering into an arranged marriage. Within feminist research, forced marriage and arranged marriage are considered part of a patriarchal power structure in which girls, women and LGBT people in general are most at-risk. Many European studies show that conflicts when entering into marriage are often an underlying cause of honour-based violence.

Based on a questionnaire survey from 2009, the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society estimates that 70,000 people aged 16–25 feel limited in terms of marriage and/or choice of partner. This equates to 6.6% of the young women and 3.8% of the young men. A 2008 study at Stockholm University focused on identifying honour-based violence and oppression in the City of Stockholm among students in grade 9. The results showed that 13 percent of the girls surveyed and 9 percent of the boys surveyed felt like they were expected to obey their parents in relation to the choice of a spouse. Though forced marriage and arranged marriage can be problematised in different ways, the lack of freedom to choose a partner or being forced to enter into a marriage is an aspect of honour-based violence and oppression. Marriage – sometimes very early and even as a child – can be a means of controlling the sexuality and life of girls and women. Getting married is often another means of being subjected to different forms of violence by the husband. For example, the girl or woman may not be given a choice when it comes to saying no to sex or having children.

As of 1 July 2014, protection against forced marriage and child marriage was heightened, and two new offences were introduced into the Penal Code – forced marriage and luring to forced marriage trip. In addition, the possibility of children being granted special permission to marry was eliminated, making 18 the minimum age to marry in Sweden. However, there are an unknown number of children living as married individuals, in a legally valid Swedish or foreign marriage or a marriage-like relationship that is considered a marriage by those in the person’s surroundings.

If you are living in a forced marriage or are at risk of having to get married even though you don’t want to, contact Social Services in your municipality or contact a women’s shelter for information, advice and support. If you are young, you can also talk to an organisation such as BRIS, RFSL or a teen girl hotline/young women’s empowerment centre. You can also talk to another adult you trust.