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Forced Marriage

A forced marriage means a marriage to which one or both parties do not or cannot consent, and in which one or more elements of force, fraud, or coercion is present. When family members or others use physical or emotional abuse, threats, or deception to force you to marry without your consent. 

Consent means that you have given your full, free, and informed agreement to marry your intended spouse and to the timing of the marriage.

Forced marriage can be both a cause and a consequence of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Forced marriage is distinct from arranged marriage.


Forced marriage is distinct from arranged marriage, where the families of both spouses take a leading role in arranging the marriage but the choice whether, when and whom to marry remains with the individuals to be married and their consent to the marriage, the person they are matched with, and the timing of the marriage is affirmative and ongoing.  

If at any point they decide not to go forward, but the wedding happens anyway, it is then considered a forced marriage.

Examples of forced marriage:

  • You feel like you didn't have say in the matter or the choice was taken away from you.  

  • You are afraid of the consequences of saying “no” to the marriage, by being cut of from the family emotionally and financially

  • You believe that you can either be hurt or killed if you say no to the marriage.

  • You feel like you can’t refuse the marriage for fear of shame to your family.

  • You have had your Passport, Identification and Modes of communication taken away from you as a form of blackmail to agree to this marriage.

If you are a noncitizen who has been forced into a marriage or who fears you may be forced to marry, you may be eligible for immigration relief in the United States. Our Client Advocates can help you better understand your rights.

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