Case Examples


14-year-old Greenfield, California resident, Maria,[1] was sold by her father into marriage with an 18-year-old man in exchange for one hundred cases of beer and a few cases of meat. When her new spouse failed to deliver the promised goods, Maria’s father called police to retrieve his daughter and bring her home. But, not before Maria’s husband earned statutory rape charges by consummating the marriage.[2]


19-year-old Aiya was severely punished for refusing to marry the 38-year-old groom that her parents picked out for her.  Phoenix authorities recently arrested Aiya’s mother on allegations that she padlocked Aiya to a bed and burned her daughter’s hands and chest.  Aiya’s younger sister was also arrested for allegedly holding Aiya down during the assault.[3]


A UK court issued 17-year-old Edirin a forced-marriage protection order after his mother took extreme measures to coerce him into a non-consensual marriage, going so far as to perform exorcisms on him when he resisted. His family tricked him into traveling to Nigeria, where he was held against his will. His mother was jailed for eight months for violating the forced-marriage protection order. Following an unsuccessful repatriation attempt, Edirin has gone missing.[4]


Elissa is one of numerous young U.S. Citizen girls forced into marriages in secret ceremonies conducted at a roadside motel in the Nevada desert by Texas polygamist Warren Jeffs, who identifies himself as a prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). Elissa testified that Jeffs forced her into a marriage with her adult first cousin when she was just 14 years old.  “I was trapped,” says Elissa, “I felt like I had nowhere to turn. I did not want to go through with this marriage. I felt, honestly, what it was like to die.” Prosecutors claim that the forced marriage resulted in Elissa’s rape.[5]


Noor of Peoria, Arizona was murdered last year as punishment for ‘shaming’ herself and her family by abandoning the marriage arranged by her parents and pursuing a relationship with a man of her own choosing.  Her father was convicted of murder for running Noor down in a parking lot in what was described as an ‘honor’ killing.[6]


Aisha of Afghanistan fled her marital home to escape beatings and abuse only to be hunted down and severely mutilated. As punishment for running away, her brother-in-law held her down while her husband used a knife to slice off her ears and nose, then left her to die when she lost consciousness from the pain. Aisha awoke choking on her own blood.[7]


“I was negotiated over like a goat” said Hadizatou of Niger, who was sold, for $500, into marriage with a man in his sixties when she was just 12 years old. Her husband raped and beat her, and forced her to perform hard labor. Hadizatou was sentenced to six months in prison for bigamy when she eventually escaped her abuser and married a man of her own choosing.[8]


When 12-year-old Reem of Yemen protested her father’s plans to force her into marriage with her 30-year-old cousin, her father gagged her and tied her up. “My dad said he’ll kill me for defying him,” said Reem, who tried to kill herself twice after the wedding. When she resisted consummating the marriage, her husband raped her, choking and biting her, dragging her by the hair and overwhelming her by force.[9]


8-year-old Mannal[10] of Saudi Arabia does not yet know that, when he ran into financial troubles, her father sold her into marriage with a 59-year-old man in return for 30,000 riyals, the equivalent of 8,000 USD. Mannal’s mother’s plea for divorce on her daughter’s behalf was dismissed by the court.[11]


“My father beat me and told me that I must marry this man, and if I did not, I would be raped and no law…in this country would help me.” The father of 8-year-old Nujood of Yemen sold her into marriage with a 30-year-old man who terrorized and sexually abused her. “He used to do bad things to me, and I had no idea as to what a marriage is. I would run from one room to another in order to escape, but in the end he would catch me and beat me and then continued to do what he wanted.”[12] When a judge scolded her, “We don’t divorce little girls,” Nujood responded, “But how come you allow little girls to get married?”


After abducting 14-year-old Elizabeth from her Salt Lake City bed at knifepoint, her captor conducted a hasty ‘marriage’ ceremony before raping her. He tethered Elizabeth between two trees and threatened to kill her and her family should she attempt to escape. Elizabeth spent the next nine months as the ‘plural wife’ and prisoner of her rapist, a homeless street preacher, who repeatedly sexually assaulted her. “I felt like because [of] what he had done to me that I was marked, that I wasn’t clean, wasn’t pure, wasn’t worth the same,” said Elizabeth. “I felt like another person would never love me.”[13]


After spending most of her first seven years in a children’s home in the UK, Sameem was reclaimed by the mother who had abandoned her, only to be beaten and abused. Matters only got worse after a concerned teacher caused child protective services to intervene, “I was beaten black and blue. My head bled, I was nearly unconscious.” At age 13, Sameem’s mother sent her to Pakistan and forced her to marry a man twice her age. Sameem attempted suicide. Years later, back in the UK, after she and her son finally escaped, police arrested three armed persons en route to her home; they had been hired by her brother to kidnap Sameem and her son by any means necessary.[14]

Amy, Desiree, Jeanne and Nikki

What Amy, Desiree and Jeanne share in common is that they were all born into self-proclaimed polygamous prophet Tony Alamo’s Spiritual Ministry, and all were counted among Alamo’s flock of abused underage wives, the youngest of whom was just 8 years old when the pastor forced her to wed. These three girls were in their early teen years when Alamo took them as spiritual wives and required them to consummate the unions. What sets Nikki apart from the others is that, at age 15, she fled the Arkansas compound upon learning that she was to be Alamo’s next wife, and so escaped the fate of the others.[15]


Bibi was only 15 years old when she died in childbirth after her family sold her into a marriage with a 34-year-old man. Bibi’s story is not an isolated case. The rates of early marriage and pregnancy recently surged when other Pakistani families that lost everything in last year’s floods sold their young daughters into marriages in an effort to feed and shelter the rest of the family.[16]


As soon as Lee turned 18, her mother squeezed her into a revealing white dress and paraded Lee before the single men of their Jehovah’s Witness congregation. Lee’s mother selected a groom and, five weeks later, forced Lee to wed him. “Once the announcement was made in church that we were getting married, I was trapped. I couldn’t back out of it. I wanted to run, but I didn’t dare. The Witnesses believe that when you’re married, you are obligated to deliver sex whenever your husband wants it. It brought back everything I had gone through as a child and I became extremely depressed and suicidal.” [17] features forced marriage case examples involving residents of the United Kingdom.

Forced Marriage FAQs

Forced Marriage Resources

Forced Marriage Laws & Publications

[1] Not her real name.

[2] See Ioan Grillo, Selling Brides: Native Mexican Custom or Crime?, Time, Inc. (Sunday, February 1, 2009) (last visited on August 6, 2009).

[3] David Schwartz, Phoenix Police Arrest Iraqi Woman for Burning Daughter, Reuters (February 16, 2012). See also, Document shows father threatened life or Iraqi girl, CBS5 (February 16, 2012).

[4] Yasmin Alibhai-brown, The unpalatable truth about forced marriage, Mail Online (February 4, 2011).

[5] and, see also (last visited on August 5, 2010). Warren Jeff’s conviction was recently overturned on the basis of faulty jury instructions. Elissa Wall wants Jeffs retried. (last visited on August 5, 2010).

[6] Nadya Labi, An American Honor Killing: One Victim’s Story, Time magazine (February 25, 2011).

[7] Aryn Baker, Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban, TIME Magazine (July 29, 2010) (last visited on January 25, 2011).

[8] U.S. Department of State, 2009 International Women of Courage Awardees, (last visited on August 6, 2009).

[9] U.S. Department of State, 2009 International Women of Courage Awardees,  (last visited on August 6, 2009); see also, (last visited July 15, 2011).

[10] Not her real name.

[11] Anne Szustek, Married Saudi Girls Can’t Divorce Until Puberty, Ground Report (December 23, 2008) (last visited on August 6, 2009).

[12] The U.S. State Department honored Ali as an International Woman of Courage, see See also, Hamed Thabet, For the first time in Yemen, 8-year-old girl asks for divorce in court, Yemen Times (April 9, 2003), and, see Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui, I Am Nujood: Age 10 and Divorced, Three Rivers Press (2010).

[13] Stephen Hunt, Elizabeth Smart tells story of survival, The Salt Lake Tribune (November 9, 2010) (last visited on January 25, 2011). See also, Tom Smart and Lee Benson, In Plain Sight: The Startling Truth Behind the Elizabeth Smart Investigation, Chicago Review Press (2005).

[14] Forced marriage: Sameem’s story, BBC Manchester (September 13, 2010).

[15] Women who claim they were child brides in the USA, The Oprah Winfrey Show (September 7, 2010).

[16] Under-age marriage agonizes girls in post-flood Pakistan, news.xonhuanet. com (July 31, 2011).

[17] Against their will: inside Canada’s forced marriages, Maclean’s (January 5, 2015).

© Julia Alanen 2008-2015

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