Restraining Forced Marriage

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Although long a component of international women’s human rights platforms, forced marriage is only presently gaining attention as a critical problem in the United States. In recent years, a number of states have considered legislation to redress forced and child marriage, most by increasing the minimum age to marry and/or mandating judicial approval of marriages involving minors. Although civil marriage reform is important, it alone is insufficient to combat forced marriage. Even where civil marriage is limited to adults, minors remain vulnerable to forced customary, religious, common law marriages, and marriages consecrated abroad. Further, intended spouses of all ages remain vulnerable to conduct intended to coerce their consent to marry. To prevent and redress forced marriage, potential victims need ready access to emergency civil injunc- tive relief. Civil protection orders are the central civil injunctive remedy relied upon to address intimate partner violence, rape, and stalking in the United States. The expedited and flexible remedies of civil protection orders could also help combat forced marriages; however, common legal standards create barriers to relief for those vulnerable to forced marriage. This Article is the first to undertake a detailed evaluation of the viability of civil protection orders to prevent and redress forced marriage. Although protection orders show promise as a tool to prevent and redress forced marriage in many states, the nuances of the governing legal standards reduce the practical utility of the remedy for those who lack expert guidance. To enhance the accessibility of protection orders in the context of forced marriage, this article proposes that states create a new forced marriage protection order like that established in the United Kingdom to address the specific needs of those facing this problem.


First published in Nevada Law Journal and reprinted with their permission.