100 signatures reached
To: Community members, marriage celebrants, religious leaders, organisations, schools, tertiary institutions, and government agencies
Pledge Against Forced Marriage
Stopping and preventing forced marriage is a community responsibility.
We want members of the community, civil society organisations, marriage celebrants, educational institutions, government agencies and religious organisations and leaders to pledge a commitment to ending forced and under-age marriage in communities living in Aotearoa.
If someone is at risk or in a forced marriage, take action and refuse to be a by-stander. You can support them to get help so they can acess safety by contacting relevant agencies and organisations like Shakti (0800 SHAKTI).
If you are marriage celebrant, make sure to screen the marriage for free and informed consent before conducting a ceremony.
By signing this pledge you or your organisation commits to supporting the end of forced marriage in New Zealand.
Why is this important?
Internationally, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18 years old every year.
Forced and under-age marriages also happen in Aotearoa (New Zealand). Shakti has dealt with an estimated number of over 70 forced marriage youth cases. However, we feel that this is the tip of the iceberg. Many forced and under-aged marriages go unreported - some of these marriages are not legally registered, sometimes happening overseas or online.
The new family violence bill announced in 2016 is currently going through Parliament. This bill includes “coercion to marry” as a specific family violence offence. While these legislative change are important, it might not capture the marriages that are not legally registered but are still culturally binding.
Forced marriages are often followed by sexual and domestic violence. If a young person tries to leave the family due to the threat of forced marriage, this can often increase the risk of “honour”-based violence. However, many young women have had to leave their families or their husband’s family because of the threat of forced marriage or due to domestic violence after a forced marriage. This has long-term impacts on their lives and any children they might have.
Forced marriages happen across cultures and religions. It is not specific to any one culture or religion.
No major world religion condones forced marriages. Forced marriage is a human rights violation.
Marriage should involve free and informed consent between adults. Forced marriage also should not be confused with arranged marriages which involve consenting adults.
Young people and adults being coerced into marriages are in our communities, they might be at our school, university, workplace, church, temple or mosque. There is a way out for them with your support.
Why do forced marriages happen?
Based on the cases we have had over the years, we know that gender inequality and the sense of ownership over children (as the property of parents) are the main causes of forced marriages. However, these are some of the specific contexts where women have been forced into marriages:
1. Immigration: many young girls are tricked into going on holidays back to their home country to find out a wedding has been arranged between them and their cousin. They are pressured to sponsored the cousin to come to New Zealand.
2. Preventing girls from becoming “too westernised”: if a young person is displaying signs of adopting more western cultural values or practices, parents may feel that their culture, religion and traditions are being threatened so may force a girl into a marriage to keep them “in line”.
3. "Keeping it within the family" - marriages organised within the family without the consent of children whose marriage have already been decided for them so inheritance stays within the family.
4. Controlling sexuality: preventing relationships with people the parents/communities disapprove of, especially of different religion/culture/ethnicity or if they are same-gender attracted.
5. Rape and sexual violence: parents have forced their children to marry their rapists, as sex outside of marriage can be taboo and the girl may not be able to get married again if she is not a virgin.
6. Poverty: marriage as a means to escape poverty for women who migrate to Aotearoa for marriage because of promises of a better life and education. However, the promises are often deceptive and broken immediately upon arrival. Women get their possessions confiscated and made to do all the domestic labour, not allowed to go outside/study/work. They are given no money and are under constant scrutiny from the husband or in-laws family.
7. Marriage pressures in late 20s based on the idea that there is an expiry date, women over the age of 25 are “leftover” if they don’t get married.
What is coercion?
1. Emotional pressure - “my dying wish is for you to get married”, “you are causing my health to suffer”, “If you don’t get married, your sisters can’t get married”
2. Physical violence or threats of physical violence
3. Threats of disownment
4. Taking young people overseas under false pretences
5. No informed, free or transparent consent - the decision has already been made, e.g. being told "you're going to get married when you turn 16"
6. Marriage involving any minor
7. Threats of suicide
8. Using ‘family honour’ to pressure someone to marry
9. Being put under house arrest, cell phone and internet confiscated, not allowed to talk to anyone or to go out of the house, being taken out of school until the young person complies.
This campaign is supported with funding from JR McKenzie Trust.