Forced marriage and modern slavery: when, and how, are they related? Online talk


October 13th, 2020

The university’s Women’s Staff Network (WSN) is pleased to host the following talk which everyone is welcome to attend.

Thursday 10 December 2020 at 12:30pm – Forced Marriage and Modern Slavery: When, and how, are they related? Dr Helen McCabe, Politics and International Relations.

In 2017, in the International Labour Organisation began including forced marriage in its definition of modern slavery, with profound results for the number of people counted as being in modern slavery, and its gender-balance.

Using this definition of modern slavery, a 2020 report by Walk Free Foundation reports that 1 in every 130 women and girls in the world are living in modern slavery, and that 84% of all forced marriage victims are female. However, this link remains un-interrogated and untheorized.

Legislation, international conventions, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights all focus on a lack of consent as the hallmark of forced marriage: but the Palermo protocol on trafficking in persons explicitly says lack of consent is irrelevant to considerations of trafficking.

Feminists have also long questioned the extent to which any woman gives “free and full consent” to marriage, given the pressures of patriarchal norms and expectations, which often result (among other things) in a lack of knowledge as to what marriage means and entails.

These are clearly important questions, and highlight a specific wrong connected to forced marriage. When we consider forced marriage as a form of modern slavery, however, our focus should therefore be on the conditions experienced by spouses in marriage, and particularly the extent to which they are treated as property, which is the hallmark of de facto slavery.

Several Special Courts have wrestled with these issues in conflict situations, but the vast majority of forced marriages occur in peacetime – and the courts have come to somewhat contradictory conclusions.

Dr McCabe’s AHRC Fellowship interrogates the connection(s) between forced marriage and modern slavery in more detail, and I am about to start a project specifically looking at the impact of COVID-19 on forced marriage in the UK, where understanding both similarities to, and differences from, modern slavery may help in identifying vulnerabilities.

In this talk, she will share some background and recent findings.

Join Microsoft Teams Meeting here. 

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