Forced marriage: A world of challenges for international criminal law

PluriCourts Seminar with Rosemary Grey, University of Melbourne.

In the last decade, the crime against humanity of ‘forced marriage’ has been recognised by the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), and International Criminal Court (ICC). This development has given rise to a tide of commentaries, most of which have focussed on the question of which crime against humanity is best suited to prosecuting the relevant conduct: is it enslavement, sexual slavery, or 'other inhumane acts'?

In this paper, I leave that vexed question to one side, and instead explore a related question that has received limited attention in the literature to date, namely, what value is the crime of ‘forced marriage’ meant to protect? If it is the right of an individual not to be forced into a marriage, could this crime theoretically extend to forced marriages which are arranged by someone known to the victim, such as a parent or relative (if the contextual elements for crimes against humanity were satisfied)? Or, if forced marriages in the so-called ‘private sphere’ are necessarily excluded from international criminal law, what does this say about the ‘hidden gender’ of international criminal law?


PluriCourt Seminars are a forum for pluridisciplinary discussion of core issues relating to international courts and tribunals. PluriCourts scholars or invited speakers present new and ongoing research or comment on current questions. The seminars are open to everyone.

Tags: International Criminal Law
Published June 4, 2018 10:26 AM - Last modified June 4, 2018 10:26 AM