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Between Choice and Obligation: An Exploratory Assessment of Forced Marriage Problems and Policies among Migrants in the United States

  • Anthony Marcus (a1), Popy Begum (a2), Laila Alsabahi (a3) and Ric Curtis (a4)

Recently, in the United States (US) there has been increasing interest in and advocacy for developing research and policies that identify and address what has, in the European context, been called child and forced marriage, in which migrant parents, typically from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA) impose marital choices on their Western-raised children, through coercion, psychological pressure, or the threat of violence. Despite widespread international concern, there remains little research-based empirical knowledge about the problem in the United States. Drawing on interviews with 100 City University of New York students from MENASA families, this study documents significant intergenerational conflict over honour, sexuality, and marital choice and suggests a high likelihood that coercive marital situations are present in the US. However, the different socio-political environment encountered by migrant families in the US may not effectively accommodate European style anti-forced marriage policy constructions and criminal justice responses.

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