Even though we say that India is progressing towards a better tomorrow, forced marriage still plagues many Indian families and society as a whole. However, if you’re forced into a marriage against your will, you have legal options available for assistance.
When men cross the age of 30, they are not questioned or forced to get married. However, when a girl crosses the mere age of 25, she is emotionally blackmailed and forced into a marriage. This is not just the case with adult women in India. Even with all the laws in India prohibiting child marriage, young girls below the age of 18 are forced into marriage. It is high time that women learn about their rights and legal options available to them against forced marriages. Here are a few things everyone should know about Forced Marriage:
1. When one or both spouses don’t consent to marriage, it is forced.
- A forced marriage occurs when one or both spouses do not consent to the marriage and duress is involved. Children and at-risk adults (those with developmental disabilities) cannot consent to marriage. Girls under the age of 18 and boys under the age of 21 cannot legally marry in India.
- You might be forced into marriage by the use of coercion, guilt, threats, blackmail, harassment, financial pressure, emotional pressure, physical violence, psychological duress, or you might even be tricked into getting married.
2. Arranged marriage and forced marriage are different.
- Of course they are different. Arranged marriage is a tradition that has existed successfully in many communities and countries for a very long time. However, it is still considered a forced marriage if even one of the spouses changes his/her mind, but the marriage goes ahead anyway.
3. It is illegal for someone to force you to marry.
- A forced marriage is a violation of human rights. It is also a form of gender violence, since it usually involves mental abuse, emotional blackmail, and coercion from either the family or society.
4. There are Laws in India that protect you from forced marriage.
- Civil laws applicable to all communities—relevant in the context of forced marriage—include the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (PCMA); the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 (G&WA); the Majority Act, 1875; the Family Courts Act, 1984 (FCA); and the Family Courts Rules as laid down in various states, as well as the recent Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDVA).
- One can use the PWDVA to prevent child marriages/forced marriages of daughters, as the Act understands forced marriage as a form of domestic violence (Section 3(a) PWDVA).
5. Know your rights against Forced Marriage.
- Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights deals with discrimination against women in marriage-related matters. It further ensures that both men and women have:
- The same right to enter into marriage;
- The same right to freely choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent.
- Article 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 (c): No marriage shall be possible without the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
6. Even Islam supports the right to consensual marriage.
- Islam gives women the right to choose and reject/accept marriage proposals even against their parents’ will. In Islam, both the man and the woman must consent before a marriage can take place.
7. Forced Marriage is voidable as per Hindu Law.
- If the complaining party does not give explicit consent for the marriage, a court can void it, even under Hindu Law.
8. The Right to Life covers the Right to Consensual Marriage in India.
- The Delhi High Court has said the right to choose one’s life partner is a fundamental right. “The right to choose your life partner, or whom you associate with, is a fundamental right. It is an integral part of the right to life.”
9. Both men and women have rights against forced marriage.
- As per the laws in India, both men and women have rights against forced marriages. The rights are applicable overall. Both men and women have a right to enter into marriage and freely choose a partner of their choice.
5 Legal things you can do if you are facing forced marriage:
Contact the Women Cell of the local police department of the city you are in, lodging a written complaint against your own parents for forcing you into a marriage for which you did not give your free consent without undue influence or force.
You can file a complaint for domestic violence under the PWDV Act against any relatives, wherein the Magistrate can pass an ad interim order restraining the respondents from forced marriage. He/she may even give directions to the SHO of the local police station for providing complete protection to the woman in distress (you) and prevent your forced marriage.
You can contact the National Commission for Women and lodge a complaint with them. Their website has detailed information about how they deal with complaints. They operate nation-wide.
Forcibly marrying someone is illegal as per Indian Laws. If somebody is forcing you to marry, they are violating your Right to Life and Human Rights under Article 16 of the Human Rights Convention. To restore your Right, you need to connect with a lawyer, who will guide you about how to deal with such situations legally. Contact Legistify on our helpline number 011-33138123, or visit us online.
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If anybody obtains the consent of the complaining party by force, or by fraud, a court can void the marriage. Other successful preemptive strategies could include:
- Publishing advertisements in the newspapers reporting the marriage as having taken place without consent.
- Addressing a letter to the police, with copies to
- Higher police officials
- The National Human Rights Commission
- National Commission for Women, or
- Sending a legal notice to the family.
However, the essential thing is to have confidence in the state agencies and the Law of India.
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