Forced marriage: an analysis of legislation and political measures in Europe

Alexia Sabbe, Marleen Temmerman, Eva Brems, Els Leye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Forced marriage is of current international concern in Europe. As many cases involve a transnational component linked to migration, it is increasingly receiving attention at the government level. The serious consequences for women, including sexual violence, and the physical and psychological health risks associated with it, seem to receive little consideration. Recent years have seen a rise in initiatives and measures taken by policy makers throughout Europe. As the focus is placed on criminalization and stringent immigration policies, ethnic minority population groups bear the greatest burden. It is argued that specific criminal laws make it more difficult for victims to come forward, while offering very little or no protection in return. The widespread 21-year age rule in immigration law has been denounced by scholars, institutes and magistrates alike for infringing on the fundamental human right to family life guaranteed by article 8 ECHR. The discourse on forced marriage appears to have reached a crossroads. European governments are faced with the challenge to create policies that protect and support victims, while simultaneously cracking down on perpetrators and safeguarding their borders from abuses in obtaining visas. There is a very pressing need to work more closely with those at risk, involving service provisions to directly support them, instead of a one-side top-down policy framework through which minority communities feel targeted and stigmatized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-189
Number of pages19
JournalCrime, Law and Social Change
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2014
Externally publishedYes


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