5 Things to do if You are being Forced into Marriage

Published on 16 Mar 2017 by Team

"The right to choose your life partner or whom you associate with is a fundamental right, it is an integral part of the right to life," a bench of Justices Gita Mittal and J R Midha said.

In a Judgment dated April 2014, a Division Bench of the High Court of Delhi observed that "The right to choose your life partner or whom you associate with is a fundamental right, it is an integral part of the right to life," a bench of justices Gita Mittal and J R Midha said. It further added that an individual`s privacy of marriage and dignity are essential parts of the right to life guaranteed under the Constitution and the view has been upheld in various judicial pronouncements.

A forced marriage occurs when one or both spouses do not consent to the marriage and duress is involved. Children and at-risk adults (those with developmental disabilities) cannot consent to marriage. Girls under the age of 18 and boys under the age of 21 cannot legally marry in India. You can consult the best family law advocates in India to take a legal action against your forced marriage.

Anyone can be forced into marriage by the use of coercion, guilt, threats, blackmail, harassment, financial pressure, emotional pressure, physical violence, psychological duress, or you might even be tricked into getting married. The rates of child marriage vary between states and are as high as 69% and 65% in Bihar and Rajasthan.

It is high time that women learn about their rights and legal options available to them against forced marriages. Here are 5 things everyone needs to know if they are being forced into marriage. Also, let’s share this information with people who need it.

First Remedy- Contact the Women Cell of the Local Police of the city you are in. You need to lodge a written complaint against your parents/relatives for forcing you into marriage.

You can even file for domestic violence under the Domestic Violence Act against your parents, brothers, other relatives. The Magistrate can pass an ad interim order restraining the respondents from a forced marriage. In some cases, Magistrate may even give directions to the SHO of the local Police station for providing complete protection to the woman in distress (you); Thus, preventing your forced marriage.Here is the list of all the important helpline numbers, all over India. You can consult a good family lawyer in India to know more.

You can contact the National Commission for Women and lodge a complaint with them. They have information on their website regarding how complaints are dealt with in detail. They operate nation-wide.

Forcing someone to get married is illegal as per the Indian Laws. And if you are being forced, then your Right to life and Human Rights under article 16 of Human Rights Convention are being violated. To restore your right, you need to connect with a lawyer, who will guide you about how to deal with such situations legally. We understand your problems and will help you find an experienced family law lawyer in India. They are a group that protects and helps young Indian couples to get married and to escape from forced marriage.

Legal Recourse 

If a woman has been forced into a marriage, then such a marriage even brought into existence is voidable by the Court. What if a fraud, coercion, force etc cannot be element involved in solemnising a marriage in the modern society and Courts see to it that justice is not denied to such victims.

If the consent of the complaining party has been obtained by force or by fraud relating to the nature of the ceremony performed or to any significant fact or circumstance concerning the opposing party, the marriage can be voided. However, a petition for annulment in such a case must be presented within one year after the force ceased to operate or the fraud has been discovered. Most important of all, the petitioner or complaining party should not have lived willingly with the other after the end of the force or after discovering the fraud. A marriage is also voidable if it can be proven that the wife was pregnant at the time of marriage by another man. In this situation, the husband must file his petition within one year of the date of the marriage.

The problem areas as to what can be done if the victim is under duress or direct threat by the husband or prospective in-laws or even her/ his own family. The effective remedies have been discussed above. Certain other pre-emptive measures can include the following-

  • Publishing advertisements in the newspapers reporting the marriage as having taken place. This can be a very effective remedy to bring to notice of the society at large as to what a group of people are trying to force their son/ daughter to get into.
  • Addressing a letter to the police, with copies to
    • higher police officials
    • the National Human Rights Commission
    • National Commission for Women, or
  • Sending a legal notice to the family

However, the most important thing is to maintain confidence in the state agencies and the Law of India.

Blanked ban on Forced Marriages of Minors in India

For cases where a marriage might have been solemnised ceremonially but without valid consent- The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) defines child marriage as marriage in which either the girl or the boy is underage, i.e., the girl is under 18 years of age or the boy is younger than 21 years.

This law was amended in 1978, wherein the legal age of marriage of girls was raised from 15 to 18 years and of boys from 18 to 21 years. The amended law was known as the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929. The Act works in a lucidly clear manner whereby any marriage under the legal age a marriage which has been solemnised without consent and is hence, forced marriages and liable to be annulled. 

Certain relevant features of The Act are- 

  • The basic remedy under the Act is to get the marriage annulled. The victim (He/she) can petition the court to declare the marriage null and void, within two years of reaching the legal age of consent – the girl can file a petition till she becomes 20 years of age and a boy till he turns 23 years of age.
  • Trafficking, enticement of the child away from the guardian and use of force or deceit are also valid legal grounds for nullifying the marriage.
  • Role of Child Marriage Prohibition Officers (CMPOs)
    CMPOs are officers responsible for implementation of the Act. They are appointed by the state government and can be invested ‘with such powers of a police officer’. The District Magistrate (DM) can also be given additional powers to stop or prevent solemnisation of child marriages.
  • If the boy (groom) is over 18 years of age at the time of marriage with a girl who is yet to become a major and thereby be in a position to give consent to a valid marriage then the can also be treated as an offender and can be punished.’
  • The guardians or parents of the child, including any member of any organisation or association that associates with child marriage or is negligent about preventing it also face the liability as prescribed under the Act.
  • Those performing, participating or abetting child marriage can be prosecuted. A woman, however, cannot be imprisoned under this Act.
  • Under PCMA, offenders can be punished for up to two years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh for violations.

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