Shedding Light On Forced Marriage In America

Forced marriage in America. Muslim. Hindu. Jewish. More. A big new exposé tells the story. We’ll hear it.

Vadya Sri tells the story of her forced marriage, which happened more than 25 years ago. (Courtesy Sarah Fournier)

Vadya Sri tells the story of her forced marriage, which happened more than 25 years ago. (Sarah Fournier for Al Jazeera America)

“Forced marriage” sounds so outlandish, distant, exotic, foreign.  But when a team of young grad students went out to look around in this country, they found plenty.  Forced marriage, in America.  In corners of American Muslim communities.  Hindu communities.  Ultra-orthodox Jewish communities.  Young women, typically, forced into marriages they do not want.  With men they barely know.  Under all kinds of pressure and leverage.  And very little American law to protect them.  Al Jazeera America has published their exposé. This hour On Point:  Forced marriage in America.

— Tom Ashbrook


Alyana Alfaro, co-author of an Al Jazeera America four-part series on forced marriage in America. (@AlyanaAlfaro)

Vidya Sri, fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Founder of GangaShakti, a support and research organization for women in forced marriages.

Fraidy Reiss, founder and executive director of Unchained at Last, an organization dedicated to helping women avoid and leave forced marriages. (@thefraidycat)

From Tom’s Reading List

Al Jazeera America: Till death do us part: The forgotten US victims of forced marriage — “For those who might think that forced marriage isn’t much of an issue in the U.S., a host of organizations, scholars and victims beg to differ. A constellation of factors — from cultural misunderstandings to lack of legislation — keeps the issue in the shadows here, although activists are hoping that a growing awareness in Europe will bring changes in the U.S. as well.”

Salon: Can a spoon end forced marriage? — “Last year, the U.K. Foreign Office’s Forced Marriage Unit received its largest cluster of complaints — 400 of them —  between the months of June and August. It’s estimated that anywhere between 1,500 and 5,000 girls in the UK are forced into marriage every year – and up to a third of them are under age 16. And girls trapped into marriage and motherhood are girls who are being abused, period.”

Columbia Journalism Review: How I got that story — ” I’m French and my grandmother was in the Jewish community in France, and got into sort of an arranged marriage—but she didn’t really have the choice to say no. She wasn’t threatened or anything, or what we describe in the article, but it’s a slippery slope…It was weird for me to think about the fact that my grandparents and my mother and me wouldn’t exist without that marriage.”

Resources And Tools For Forced Marriage Victims And Allies

*Producer’s Note: In the opening segment of this broadcast, a 2011 report prepared by the Tahirih Justice Center’s Forced Marriage Initiative was mistakenly attributed to a different organization. A link to the original report can be found here.

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