NPR discusses one woman’s story of forced marriage in the United States, and how the institution of marriage in our countries actually encourages these situations.
“Some of our clients have … actually committed suicide as their only way out,” she says. “They’ve been beaten. They have been imprisoned in their own home. They’ve been starved.”
U.S. laws are not designed to deal with the complexity of forced marriage, Miller-Muro says, especially if there’s no pattern of past violence. Even state laws on the marriage age don’t always help. Most were written for Romeo and Juliet scenarios, she says, and power lies with parents, not the young people.
“[The parents] can go to a court and get a marriage certificate, indicate they’re waiving the minimum age requirement,” Miller-Muro says. “And the court has no procedures in place to ensure the child is wanting this. And so we’ve seen this happen.”