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A forced marriage occurs when one or both spouses do not consent to the marriage and duress is involved. Children and at-risk adults (those with developmental disabilities) cannot consent to marriage. Girls under the age of 18 years and boys under the age of 21 years cannot legally marry in India.


You might be forced into marriage by the use of coercion, guilt, threats, blackmail, harassment, financial pressure, emotional pressure, physical violence, psychological duress, or you might even be tricked into getting married.

If you do not want to get married, it is illegal for anyone to force you to marry. 


A forced marriage is a violation of human rights, as well as a form of Gender Based Violence as it usually involves mental abuse, emotional blackmail and coercion from either the family or society. Many cases also involve physical violence, abduction, detention, threat of murder, or murder.


Is It Different from Arranged Marriage?

Forced marriages are different from arranged marriages in which the families of both spouses take a leading role in arranging the marriage but the prospective spouses have the choice whether or not to accept the arrangement. This tradition has existed successfully in many communities and countries for a very long time. However, if even one of the spouses changes his or her mind but is forced to go ahead with the marriage, it is considered a forced marriage.




It is your choice whether you decide to take legal action or not. If you want to take legal action, look below. If you want to leave your parents’ house but not file a case against them, then look at our Escape section for advice.


Legal options: If you are being forced into marriage you can do the following:

[For Girls] Contact the Women Cell of the Local Police of the city you are in lodging a written complaint against your own parents for forcing you into marriage for which you did not give your free consent without undue influence or force.


[For Girls] You can even file for domestic violence under the PWDV Act against your parents, brothers, other relatives wherein the Magistrate can pass ad interim order restraining the respondents from forced marriage, even give directions to the SHO of local Police station for providing complete protection to the woman in distress (you) and prevent your forced marriage.


[For Girls] You can contact the National Commission for Women and lodge a complaint with them. They have information on their website regarding how complaints are dealt with in detail. They operate nation-wide.
You can lodge a complaint at the National Commission for Women.


[For Girls and Boys] Contact Love Commandos. They are a group that protects and helps young Indian couples to get married and to escape from forced marriage. If it is an emergency you can contact them directly.

Love Commandos
Love Commandos Phone Helplines: 09313784375, 09313550006

Police Women’s Cell Hotlines + More information (shelters, trauma, etc.)




Andhra Pradesh:• National Commission for Women – 011-13237166• Women Protection Cell – 040-23320539• Women Police Station – 040-27853508• AP Women’s network – 040-27014394

Bihar:• Women Helpline Centre – 18003456247 / 0612-2320047 / 2214318

Chandigarh:• Women Helpline Number – 2741900, 1091• Samvad – (0172) 2546389

Delhi:• National Commission for Women – 23237166, 23234918• Delhi Commission for Women – 23379181, 23370597• Women Protection Cell – 24673366/4156/ 7699• Central Social Welfare Board – 1091/ 1291(011)23317004
More Delhi Police contacts


Haryana:• Women and Child Helpline – 0124-2335100• Helpline for Women in Distress – 9911599100

Gujarat:• Women Helpline -1091• Ahmadabad Women’s ActionGroup – 27470036• Self Employed Women’s Association – 25506477/ 25506444

Himachal Pradesh:• Women commission – 9816066421, 09418636326, 09816882491, 9418384215

Karnataka:• Women Helpline Number – 22942149, 1091• women commission – 080-22100435/ 22862368, 080-2216485  Bangalore Police

Kerala:• Women Helpline -1091• Kerala Women’s Commission- 0471-2322590, 2320509, 2337589, 2339878, 2339882,e-mail: keralawomenscommission@yahoo.

Madhya Pradesh:• S.P. Office / We Care For You – 2522111• Mahila Thana – 2434999• Pardeshipura – 2435999• Sanyogitaganj – 2523999• Pandrinath – 2342999• Mari Mata (Banganga) – 2423999• Juni Indore – 2362999• MIG – 2570111• Mallharganj – 2454201• Chandan Nagar – 23789147• Sanwar – 7321-220999• Mhow – 7324-228100• Depalpur – 7322-221100• Women Commission – 2661802, 2661804, 2661805,2739804, 2661808

Maharashtra:• MAJLIS – 26661252 / 26662394• Women Right Initiative – 43411603 / 43411604• Human Rights Law Network – 23439754 / 23436692• Police Helpline for Women -103• Helpline for Women – 26111103, 1298• Shree Aadhar Kendra – 24394104 / 24394103

Punjab:• Women commission – 0172-783607• Women Helpline – 1091, 9781101091• Samvad – (0172) 2546389, 2700109, 276000114. Rajasthan:• Women Helpline – 0291-0141-27445 96

Tamil Nadu:• Women Commission – 044 –28592750• Snehdi – (044) 2446293• The Banyan – (044) 26530504 / 26530105• Helpline – 1091• Women Police Station, Adayar – 044-24415732, 044-23452586• Women Police Station, Guindy – 044-24700011

Tripura:• Women Helpline Numbers – 0381-2323355, 03812322912

Uttar Pradesh:• Sahyog – (0522) 2387010• Vanangana – (05198) 236985• Aali – (0522) 2782066/60• Women Commission – 0522-2288353, 9415293666• West Bengal women commission – 91-33-23595609, 91-33-23210154, 91-33-2217 4019/2244 8092• Swayam – (033) 24863367, 24863368

West Bengal:• Women Helpline Number – 913323595609, 913323210154



Take care while filing a complaint

Some issues may arise while filing for complaint to the police regarding forced marriage. You can seek the help of the police to help you stop your marriage if you’re being forced to marry against your will. However, given the level of mistrust that prevails in our society vis-à-vis the police, such an intervention can boomerang on the complainant and may lead to more trouble. In such situations, social pressure applied judiciously might work better on parents as opposed to legal interventions.

Attempt to identify and approach influential people within your own community or extended family who have the moral clout to influence your parent’s decision. Alternatively, sympathetic teachers or respected social workers in the area could also be approached for help. However, these social interventions are outside the realm of legal rights and in extreme cases where social pressure does not work, police help may be sought. [3]



Your Rights Under The Law: Know your Rights

In India, arranged marriages (where both bride and groom are introduced and do provide some degree of consent) are the norm and even where the formalities are rigorously observed, the right to choice of spouse is very limited. Traditionally, the bride and bridegroom do not meet before the marriage and at the time of the contract of marriage either the bride’s silence is considered consent or her head is forcibly moved to denote consent. Many women are not aware that any marriage without their express consent is invalid according to the law.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. Article 16 Universal Declaration of Human Right States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women:

(a)The same right to enter into marriage;

(b)The same right freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent;

Article 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966: (c) No marriage shall be entered into without the free and full consent of the intending spouses. [1]

Delhi High Court has said the right to choose one’s life partner is a fundamental right. “The right to choose your life partner or whom you associate with is a fundamental right, it is an integral part of the right to life,” a bench of justices Gita Mittal and J R Midha said.

It also said that an individual’s privacy of marriage and dignity are essential parts of right to life guaranteed under the Constitution and the view has been upheld in various judicial pronouncements. [2]

Overall, men and women have a right to enter into marriage and freely choose a partner of their choice



Women and Hindu Marriage Law

What is meant when the law uses the term “Hindu”?

The term “Hindu” in post-independence Hindu law governing marriage, divorce, adoption, maintenance, guardianship and succession, describes not only persons who are Hindu by religion, but also those who are Sikh, Buddhist, and Jain. Roughly speaking, the term “Hindu” encompasses those Indians who are not Christian, Parsi, Muslim, or Jewish for the purposes of the law.

But what is the remedy if a woman has been married off before she turned 18?

A woman whose marriage was performed when she was under 15 years of age can reject the marriage, or “repudiate” it and get a divorce on that ground alone. She can only take the step after turning 15, but before turning 18. However, by doing so she loses the right to maintenance or alimony which a divorced woman can claim legally.

If a woman has been forced into a marriage, is such a marriage void or voidable? What if a fraud has been played on her?

Such marriages are voidable. If the consent of the complaining party has been obtained by force or by fraud relating to the nature of the ceremony performed or to any significant fact or circumstance concerning the opposing party, the marriage can be voided. However, a petition for annulment in such a case must be presented within one year after the force ceased to operate or the fraud has been discovered. Most important of all, the petitioner or complaining party should not have lived willingly with the other after the end of the force or after discovering the fraud. A marriage is also voidable if it can be proven that the wife was pregnant at the time of marriage by another man. In this situation the husband must file his petition within one year of the date of the marriage.



Forced Marriage in Islam

Islam gives women the right to choose and reject or accept the marriage proposals even against their parents will. Islam teaches that consent from both man and woman is a must before a marriage can take place. The Qur’an states “O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion…” (4:19). The Sahih al-Bukhari, one of the most revered sources of hadith (Islamic practice) amongst Islamic scholars, reports the Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him) as saying: “The widow and the divorced woman shall not be married until her order is obtained, and the virgin girl shall not be married until her permission is obtained.” (Bukhari, 67:42). The next chapter of the Sahih al-Bukhari states: “When a man gives his daughter in marriage and she dislikes it, the marriage shall be repudiated” (Bukhari, 67:43), with further hadith providing examples of the Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him) cancelling such marriages in which the daughter’s consent was not sought.

Unlike secular law, marriage within the ambit of Islam is not only a civil contract but a religious and spiritual contract between two people – which must be entered into freely and with mutual consent. According to Islamic custom, parents and guardians have specific rights in this matter; to arrange the marriage ceremony and conduct it as a respectful family event; give their advice and recommendation for a life partner for their children. These rights are encapsulated within the philosophy of ‘willayah’. However, Islam does not allow parents, guardians or other relatives to enforce their will or choice on a boy or a girl since it is they who are the real parties to that contract. The right to exercise free will and consent in choosing a spouse is a God given right. This is also clearly evident from important commandments given by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in numerous Hadith, which lay down the foundational principles of formulating a marriage contract. In the Sahih Al-Bukhari, for example, a chapter in the book of marriage has been given the heading: “No father or mother or any close relation can force his/her children to marry anyone against their free will and consent”.

It is thus clearly apparent that forced marriages are totally unacceptable in Islam. Islamic commandments as mentioned above are very categorical in nature. Those who invoke Islam in order to justify their actions do so for ulterior motives.



[1] Shaikh, Anisa. “RIGHT TO MARRY UNDER RIGHT TO LIFE: PANORAMIC VIEW.” Legal India (2012): n. pag. 12 Jan. 2012. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. .


[2] PTI. “Right to Choose Life Partner Is a Fundamental Right: HC.” Zee News. N.p., 02 Apr. 2014. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. .


[3] “Women and Hindu Marriage Law – Manushi, Issue 136.” Women and Hindu Marriage Law – Manushi, Issue 136. India Together, Sept. 2013. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. .


[4] “Honour Crimes.” BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. .


[5] “More than 1000 Honour Killings in India Every Year: Experts.” The Times of India. N.p., 4 July 2010. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. .


[6] Women : Government Intervention at the Wayback Machine (archived November 26, 2005), National Commission for Women.


[7] Goonesekere, Savitri (2004). Violence, Law and Women’s Rights in South Asia. SAGE Publications. p. 149. ISBN 0-7619-9796-2.


[8] “Honour killing: SC notice to Centre, Haryana and 6 other states”. Times of India.


[9] “Bill in Parliament to curb honor killing: Moily”. 23 June 2010. Retrieved 1 October 2012.





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