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Projects of the joint German-Austrian call

R&D- Support Actions >Call 2021 >

FORMA (Forced Marriage)

The project undertakes a multidimensional assessment of the current situation regarding forced marriage and is intended as a contribution to evidence-based policy and measures in the areas of security and migration in Austria. On the basis of a comprehensive presentation of the national and international legal situation, a multidimensional and multidisciplinary analysis is used to create an improved data situation and a basis for action to increase the effectiveness of measures for prevention, victim protection and prosecution.

Austria is not free of the phenomenon of forced marriage, which is a serious human rights violation; the true extent is not known. Criminal statistics only depict the "tip of the iceberg", as this crime and related problem situations continue to be severely under-reported. Forced marriage is often accompanied by preparatory acts outside Austria and also takes place in the most personal sphere of life, which is difficult to access. Furthermore, conceptual problems of demarcation, for example between forced marriage and marriages of convenience and exploitative forms in connection with trafficking in human beings and child trafficking, as well as a lack of research into the causes make both effective prosecution and adequate victim protection difficult. By recently explicitly listing forced marriage as a form of exploitation in its proposal to amend the Anti-Trafficking in Human Beings Directive, the EU takes into account the serious interference with freedom and sexual self-determination that typically accompanies this crime.

Based on the current Austrian and international legal situation, including case law and relevant human rights standards, the project first undertakes a fundamental conceptual sharpening of delimitations. This is followed by a multidimensional causal analysis as a basis for the development of risk profiles, as well as an analysis of the data needed for the identification of problem situations, especially on the part of potential victims, and how such data could be collected. Finally, suggestions for preventive action in potential risk situations will be developed.

In order to capture the extent as comprehensively and realistically as possible, an attempt is made to identify all forms of forced marriages on the basis of various case constellations. What aspects and causes play a role, what are the differences and similarities, what does "coercion" actually mean? Can it be a case of a person circumventing residence regulations if he or she has become a victim of coercion and/or exploitation, perhaps even of human trafficking? What role do family structures, lack of prospects or education, economic and social dependencies play? In this sense, the project also sees itself as a contribution to evidence-based migration policy and to migration research in Austria in general.

The project will also focus on the situation of children and adolescents with regard to "child marriages" and early and forced marriages. As a gender-based form of violence, early and forced marriage is primarily directed against girls, but by no means exclusively. In any case, gender aspects (and thus also the role of men and boys) must be included in the analysis of causes in this context.

A particular challenge of the project lies in addressing "coercion." What restrictions on autonomy of action are relevant here, do they have to be explicit or is implicit coercion enough? Does a marriage need a clear objection to be considered a coercive marriage? To what extent does this counter-will have to be recognizable for the environment, what does a presumed consent say? In the context of migration, this debate intensifies when women and girls are forced to flee and, if necessary, to marry in order to reach a supposedly safe place. Do these affected persons fall within the scope of the protection of the legal concept of forced marriage? For the purpose of a multidimensional assessment of the situation, field research in the form of qualitative interviews with relevant stakeholders (security sector/law enforcement, authorities and courts, victim protection institutions, etc.) will be used on the one hand, and a broad analysis of the available quantitative data will be conducted on the other. An interdisciplinary project team, which brings in both jurisprudential and practical experience with those directly affected, ensures that research and practice are linked in a goal-oriented manner, that trends and future challenges can be worked out, and that possibilities for action can be significantly expanded for state actors, victim protection institutions, and for those affected themselves.

Project manager
Maryam Alemi M.A, B.A, Legal Advice Centre, Caritas Vienna

Further/additional project partner(s)
Orient Express – Women’s Counselling, Learning and Cultural Centre
Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Fundamental and Human Rights
University of Vienna, Institute for Criminal Law and Criminology,
Federal Ministry of the Interior
In close cooperation with Federal Chancellery - Women's Section

Maryam Alemi, M.A, B.A
Caritas der Caritas der Erzdiözese Wien – Hilfe in Not
Mariannengasse 11
1090 Wien 
+43 676 676 6461