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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: November 2017

Chapter 2 - Forced marriages in the Netherlands and England

from PART I - FORCE AND MARRIAGE: Description and definition of forced marriage



The practice of forced marriage is not something that is generally associated with Western Europe. Often, it is assumed that this only happens in ‘other’ countries. Yet research shows that forced marriages are a daily reality in Europe. In England, the majority of forced marriages take place in Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities; in the Netherlands, Moroccan, Turkish and Surinamese Hindustani communities are mostly associated with the practice. Granted, the bulk of forced marriages are contracted in migrant communities, but as was discussed in Chapter 1 and will be demonstrated below, forced marriages are not foreign to traditional Dutch and English communities either: they also take place in orthodox Protestant and strict Catholic circles.

In order to get a clear picture of the practice of forced marriage, this chapter describes forced marriages as they occur in the Netherlands and England, focusing on prevalence, victims, perpetrators, key motivations and consequences. As was stated in the previous chapter, this research defines ‘forced marriage’ as a marriage at least one of the partners entered into against their will as a result of some form of coercion exerted by another person.



Forced marriage is a hidden phenomenon that is difficult to quantify. Most known and alleged cases of forced marriage take place within the context of the families of the spouses. Often, they become visible only after the situation has escalated and has resulted in domestic or honour-related violence. Anthropologists, legal researchers and law enforcement professionals have noted that victims of forced marriage are reluctant to go to the police, as this could compromise their relationship with their family and community. As a result of these complicating factors, and because neither the police nor the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) specifically registers cases of forced marriage, there are no exact figures on the prevalence of this practice in the Netherlands.

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