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Comprehensive Child Marriage Research Library

Between Choice and Obligation: An Exploratory Assessment of Forced Marriage Problems and Policies among Migrants in the United States


Object Type:

Marcus, Anthony; Begum, Popy; Alsabahi, Laila; Curtis, Ric

Journal Article

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Social Policy and Society

Peer Reviewed


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Students Against Child Marriage's Object Summary:

This article explores the experiences of young City University of New York students that come from Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia (MENSA) backgrounds to understand how anti-forced marriage policy maps on to the experiences of migrant families. In interviews with 100 CUNY students, this study determined that intra-familial conflict over marital choice, dating, and sexuality were incredibly common, with many citing examples from their own and their friend’s lives where people were married without fully consenting. They argue that European style anti-forced marriage policies and criminal justice systems would not be successful in the US, where the nuclear family is more emphasized and young adults rely on their parents financially well into their 20s. More research is necessary to determine appropriate intervention methods in the US but law enforcement and other European style intervention do not seem to be the way they go.

Article Abstract (If Available):

Recently, in the United States (US) there has been increasing interest in and advocacy for developing research and policies that identify and address what has, in the European context, been called child and forced marriage, in which migrant parents, typically from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA) impose marital choices on their Western-raised children, through coercion, psychological pressure, or the threat of violence. Despite widespread international concern, there remains little research-based empirical knowledge about the problem in the United States. Drawing on interviews with 100 City University of New York students from MENASA families, this study documents significant intergenerational conflict over honour, sexuality, and marital choice and suggests a high likelihood that coercive marital situations are present in the US. However, the different socio-political environment encountered by migrant families in the US may not effectively accommodate European style anti-forced marriage policy constructions and criminal justice responses.

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