This year's International Youth Day focuses on youth migration. We help young migrants to deal with a number of issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights. One of our many challenges is dealing with forced marriage.
The number of young women affected by forced marriage in France is estimated at approximately 70,000.
In 2006, the French government voted a law that fixed the legal age of marriage for girls at 18 rather than 15. This was particularly to prevent early marriages. The law also made ‘marriage by force’ a crime.
However, despite these measures, forced marriage remains a real danger for young women from ethnic minority communities in France and an issue of major concern for IPPF Member Association in France, Le Mouvement Français Pour le Planning Familial (MFPF).
“Forcing someone into a marriage against their will is a clear abuse of their human rights”, says Latifa Drif from MFPF Montpellier. “Among the young people, it is mostly women and girls who come to us to find a solution, there are those who return from their parents’ country of origin, where the marriage was consummated. It gives rise to sexual relations which are not consented to freely; and that, therefore, constitutes rape. However, consummated or not, a forced marriage has consequences on the life and health of young women, which can range from dropping out of school/loss of employment and on to nervous depression and even suicide.”
An example of the everyday situations MFPF has to deal with is the story of Samia.
Samia, at 23 years of age, is economically dependent on her family and does not wish to break off relations with them despite their insistence on her marrying someone from her parents’ country of origin: “I was expecting the marriage but I thought it would happen here in France, like formy two sisters’. They were married like that too. I said no! I cried a lot, I thought theyhad understood. But my mother said to me: “if it’s not him, it will be another. Weknow who is good for you and who is not. We’re leaving for Algeria on 20 October”. Idon’t want to get married, but I don’t know what to do. They’re my parents, I can’t goagainst them. I want to continue my studies. I’m scared of staying out there. Can youhelp me?”
In response to these situations of great psychological despair and anxiety, MFPF set up a network some years ago to develop effective responses for young women faced with violence and family break-up.
The aim of this network is to develop these responses in order to receive, support and accommodate young people who have broken off relations with their families.
Today the network brings together over 25 representatives of associations and institutions.MFPF has also recently received support from the European Integration Fund in order to ensure the further development of programmes, seminars and workshops and training for professionals on the issue of forced marriage and violence against women.