Forced Marriage as a Crime: Deserving of a Separate Categorisation?

Aparajitha Narayanan, Lecturer, Jindal Global Law School

Forced marriages have been affirmed as a crime against humanity by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, however, jurisprudence and scholarly literature are wary of categorising it as a distinct crime in international criminal law. An analysis of why the said Court held that forced marriage falls under ‘other inhumane acts’ will be attempted by dissecting and extrapolating the factual and legal explanations for the same. The then situation in Sierra Leone will be contrasted with those of Cambodia, Rwanda and Uganda (among others). By differentiating between forced marriages and arranged marriages (carried out in peacetime), on one hand
and forced marriages and sexual slavery, on the other, it will be argued that the crime of forced marriage deserves a separate categorisation. Next, a scrutiny of whether forced marriage as a crime passes the nullum crimen sine lege test in international law will be made, and by way of conclusion, it will be contended that the crime of forced marriage deserves a separate categorisation in international criminal law.

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