ArticlesVolume 19, Number 2 (2010)

What Is Forced Marriage – Towards a Definition of Forced Marriage as a Crime against Humanity

Abstract

The Special Court for Sierra Leone’s Trial and Appeals Chambers handed down judgments considering, for the first time, forced marriage as a crime against humanity. This Article critiques those decisions against the Appeals Chamber’s stated aim of “enriching the jurisprudence of international criminal law.” This Article argues that there is a need to recognize a crime of forced marriage, but in order to enrich current jurisprudence, it should be limited to only the conferral of the status of marriage and the ongoing effects of that status on the victim. Other crimes that occur within the marriages should not be collapsed into the prosecution of forced marriage; they are separate offenses that need separate recognition. Two contrasting examples of forced marriage are compared: so-called “forced marriages” in a number of African conflicts involving the abduction of women and girls by rebels and forced marriage between 1975 and 1979 in Khmer Rouge-ruled Cambodia. The African examples are drawn from published research, while a portrait of forced marriage in Cambodia is sketched through stories gathered in field research conducted in Cambodia in 2006, along with some published material. This Article argues that there is a lacuna in the law that requires the recognition of forced marriage as a crime. The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (the “ECCC”), established to try Khmer Rouge crimes, has the opportunity to address this crime and to create a record of the fact that forced marriages were traumatic events that deeply affected thousands of Cambodian lives.

 

Footnotes omitted.