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Forced marriages

Kari met Anya on a holiday trip. After three months, they got married, and Anya applied for a resi-dence permit in Finland. When Anya arrived in Finland, Kari was waiting for her at the airport. Kari’s home was a long way away from the airport in a wooded area. The first couple of days went well but then Kari’s behaviour changed. He was no longer friendly and yelled at Anya all the time. Then he started to hit her. Moreover, Kari wanted to have sex constantly. He forced Anya to have sex with him even when she did not want to.

Mustahiuksinen-nainen-katsoo-merelleKari was very jealous of Anya and did not let her go out alone. While Kari was at work, Anya had to wait for him at home – and she would not have had anywhere to go, anyway. Kari thought that Anya did not need a phone or any money. Kari expected Anya to work for her food and accom-modation; being lazy was something he did not tolerate. When Kari went to work, Anya had to clean, cook, take care of Kari’s crops and do laundry. Anya’s working days lasted until midnight.
Kari took advantage of Anya’s vulnerable position, knowing that Anya was not able to leave.

The story and the characters are fictitious, but the story is based on one or more real-life cases.

Forced marriages occur even in Finland

Forced marriage is a form of human trafficking, and it occurs even in Finland. Forced marriage refers to a marriage or some other similar relationship where one or both parties have not been allowed to choose who they marry or if they marry at all.
In the story above, a foreign national called Anya was subjected to conditions that could be described as forced marriage.  Initially, both parties may consent to the marriage, but as time goes by, the dynamics of the relationship change as one of the spouses is sub-jected to conditions that violate human dignity and is no longer able to leave the relation-ship without facing serious consequences.

Forced marriage is usually a tradition

pariskunta-pakkoavioliittoForced marriages are often, in one way or another, based on a tradition where women are expected to submit to the will of the men in the family. In some cases, women may be married off to maintain the family’s social status or to settle the family’s debts. Some forced marriage happen because in some cultures, a husband is entitled to marry his dead wife’s sister. In some cultures, capturing a woman and forcing her to marry her abductor is still a common practice, although it is almost always illegal.

Forced marriages often involve threats and pressure. Factors that are associated with a greater risk of falling victim to forced marriage or that prevent the victim from leaving the marriage include fear of honour-related violence, low social status, pressure from family or community, violence or threat of violence and financial dependence.

Forced marriage is a violation of human rights in itself. The victim of a forced marriage may also be subjected to forced labour or sexual exploitation.

Types of forced marriage detected in Finland

The Institute of Criminology and Legal Policy at the University of Helsinki has compiled a report on forced marriages in Finland (2017). According to the report, three types of forced marriage have been detected in Finland:

  1. Forced marriages contracted outside Finland by foreign nationals.
  2. A girl of migrant origin (who lives in Finland and often is a Finnish citizen) is sent abroad to marry a man who lives outside Finland.
  3. A Finnish citizen living in Finland marries a woman who is a foreign national. Initially, both parties agree to marry each other voluntarily, but in reality, the foreign national wife is abused in many ways, often sexually and financially. The marriage may involve threats and oppression, which is why the woman is unable to or does not know enough to leave the relationship.
The story of Anya, as presented above, is an example of the third type of forced marriage.

Identifying forced marriages is challenging

Identifying a victim of forced marriage may be difficult. The authorities may encounter a victim of forced marriage when responding to an isolated assault, for example. In this regard, the signs of a forced marriage are similar to those of domestic violence. The signs of a forced marriage can easily remain undetected, if the victim is too scared to talk or does not get an opportunity to talk about the situation in a calm environment without having to fear for their safety.

Syyrialaisnainen-ikkunassaAs a form of human trafficking, forced marriage rarely consists of one single act but rather of a series of acts and circumstances that have prevailed for years or even decades. This is one of the reasons why identifying a forced marriage is difficult.  Moreover, the victims may not even under-stand their own situation or be aware of any other options.

Professionals who encounter victims of forced marriage must understand that the abuse may affect all aspects of the victim’s life and include physical, psychological, spiritual and financial abuse or even all of these at once. Victims may also be afraid to leave the relationship because they fear that their abusive spouse gets to keep the children.