Forced Marriage

CGRS argues that forced marriage should not be dismissed as a cultural practice or private family matter, but instead recognized as a form of gendered persecution.  It is important to note that “forced” marriage, in which an individual is coerced into marriage or consent is extracted under duress, differs from “arranged” marriage, in which the families play a major role but the full and free consent of the potential spouses is provided.  Arranged marriage exists around the world in many countries as an important tradition, and remains a preferred cultural norm for many communities. Forced marriage, however, is a violation of basic human rights and a form of persecution, and should thus be recognized as a basis for asylum. 

  • Maldonado v. Holder (pending): A lesbian woman from El Salvador was forced, at the age of 14, to marry a 68-year-old man to "cure" her of her homosexuality and bore two children as the result of rapes within the marriage. The immigration agency did not recognize these harms as persecution on account of a protected ground.  CGRS filed an amicus brief on appeal to the Ninth Circuit arguing that forced marriage and its attendant harms, like rape, suffered by Ms. Maldonado constitute persecution that were inflicted for reasons of her sexual orientation. The government agreed to a settlement, rescinding its order of expedited removal and allowing Ms. Maldonado to present her claim for asylum before an immigration judge. She is represented by the National Immigrant Justice Center.
  • Matter of S-F- (2008): The BIA recognized forced marriage as a basis for asylum.  It reversed the Immigration Judge’s denial of asylum to a Senegalese woman who feared forced marriage and abuse by her father because she resisted the marriage he had arranged for her. CGRS filed an amicus brief and supported Ms. S-F-'s attorney.

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