Forced Marriage as Modern Slavery

“To Have and To Hold”

Understanding the Relationship between Forced Marriage and Modern Slavery

An AHRC-funded Leadership Fellowship at the University of Nottingham‘s Rights Lab Beacon of Research Excellence.

The Problem

According to the ILO‘s Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, 15.4 million people are living in forced marriages.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5.3 comits the international community to ending child, early and forced marriaged by 2030. We evidently still have a long way to go.

The ILO also linked forced marriage and modern slavery, which SDG 8.7 also comits the world to ending by 2030. Understanding forced marriage as a form of modern slavery may be a useful way of tackling the problem.

However, the link between forced marriage and modern slavery remains unclear, and under-explored. This project seeks to improve our understanding of possible links, as part of the process of ending both.

The Project

This multidisciplinary project – the first to explain why certain types of marriage should be seen as forms of modern slavery – seeks to answer the following research questions:

RQ1: To what extent, if any, is forced marriage a form of modern slavery?

RQ2: Does forced marriage as currently defined in law really encapsulate the normative problem?

RQ3: What types of marriage, if any, ought to be seen as forms of modern slavery?

In order to answer these questions, we: draw on the work of past philosophers’ criques of marriage as a form of slavery, and understand the specific normative problem we are trying to eradicate in working to end forced marriage; collate current legal definitions of forced marriage, mapping these onto understandings of modern slavery; explore the corpus of existing survivor narratives regarding forced marriage; survey existing empirical instances of forced marriage which could be forms of slavery to generate typologies and inform future estimation of global prevalence.

The Team

Dr Helen McCabe (Fellow) and Dr Hannah Baumeister (Research Associate) at the Rights Lab are working with Karma Nirvana and Walk Free on this multidiscplinary project.

‘[I]n legal terms, forced marriage is not slavery … and yet…’

Jean Allain

For more information about our research findings, recent news, and events please look at our blog.

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