Challenging Forced Marriage: Building the Defence and Support System

Forced marriage violates the principles of personal freedom and individual autonomy. It is viewed as a human rights violation under international human rights law. This project will generate evidence that will help combat forced marriage in India on two key issues: shelters for women resisting forced marriage and a law to enable civil marriages.

Forced marriages and women's well-being
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is the cornerstone of international human rights law, states that marriage should be entered only with the free and full consent of both spouses. Forced marriage violates the rights of men and women, but it has an especially complex effect on women's lives. Forced marriages include child marriage, where the parties are not seen as capable of giving informed consent.

Women who are forced into marriage face greater disadvantages in patriarchal societies that discriminate against women. Forced marriage is used as a tool to control women's sexuality and mobility, both physical and social. Forced marriages are especially prevalent in India.

Research to enhance women's opportunities
In India, marriage laws differ for different religions. The civil law for marriage is the Special Marriage Act, which allows parties of different religions to marry without changing their religion. It requires explicit consent of both partners to marry. Consent remains central to the marriage law; however, not all religious laws require both partners' explicit consent to marry.

The Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives proposes to analyze India's state mechanisms to create a support system for women who resist forced marriage and exercise the right to choice. It will bridge the knowledge gap about existing state mechanisms to deal with cases of forced marriage and to ensure that states are accountable for a system that protects women's rights and liberties. The project will provide research to feed into evidence-based interventions and an action plan for dealing with forced marriage in India.

Women empowered to exercise their rights
The research team will investigate 12 shelter homes in three Indian states: Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Haryana. The project aims to
-enhance young women's opportunities for complete social and economic development
-increase the social acceptability of marriages of choice
-enhance women's ability to resist forced marriage
-improve the state's responsibility to protect women who face violence for exercising their right to choice in marriage and other sexual relationships

Project ID


Project status


End Date

Friday, August 4, 2017


24 months

IDRC Officer

Navsharan Singh

Total funding

CA$ 100,000



Project Leader

Ms. Seema Misra


The Trustees of Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiatives

Institution Country