Forced Marriages in India

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FORCED MARRIAGES IN INDIA – AN INSIGHT INTO THE EXISTING PRACTISES AND SUGGESTING POSSIBLE REFORMS Introduction Defining forced marriage has been a monumental task for those few scholars who have attempted to do so. The difficulty arises in defining the word ‘forced’ primarily because there are numerous ways in which it can be defined. Oxford English dictionary defines ‘force’ as ‘coercion or compulsion especially with the use of force’, while Collins English dictionary defines ‘force’ as compulsory or ‘that, which is caused by external agencies’. Marriage is said to be the union of two souls. Marriage is a lifelong commitment where two individuals solemnly vow to spend the rest of their lives together. An institution such as this therefore requires, above all ‘willingness’ and ‘consent’ between the two individuals. The force applied in order to obtain the consent of an individual need not necessarily be directed at that individual; indirect pressure also amounts to coercion. For instance the groom’s father coercing the bride’s father to marry his daughter to his son; as a repayment for the debt owed, would constitute a forced marriage, even though neither the girl nor the boy were directly coerced, threatened, or blackmailed. In another case, the perpetrator was caught within the vicious cycle of family bullying and community pressure and honour, where he was compelled to marry his daughter to a man whose family he despised, due to a promise made to his mother, during his daughter’s infancy. Another important fact is that, in order to constitute force there need not always be an element of violence in it. Cases where individuals are deceived or made to enter into marriage would also fall under the ambit of the definition of force. The ‘definition of force is thus wide ranging and can include any form, ranging from physical, mental, deceit, fraud,
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