The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. Along with other fundamental rights, such as “the right to life, liberty and security of person” (Art 3) and “freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state,” (Art 13); the UDHR also states that “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution,” and that these marriages “shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses” (Art 16).
It’s an age-old phenomenon for people, especially young women and girls, to be forced into marriage against their will. In some cases, they are forced or coerced by their parents. In other instances, skewed ratios of women to men thanks to gender-selective abortion, mean that young girls and women are kidnapped, forced into marriage, and subjected to physical and sexual assault.
While usually associated with, but not limited to developing countries, forced marriage takes place all over the world, including in the United States and the United Kingdom.
On the other hand, family members rejecting their children’s choice in partners is not an uncommon occurrence. Al-Jazeera reports that a man in India, Sidhnath Sharma, is suing his son, Sushant Jasu, for marrying a woman of a lower social class, saying that “For ages, it has been an accepted tradition of arranged marriages within your own caste,” and that his son choosing to eschew tradition “not only stunned [him], it also affected [his] social status.”
Full and free consent means being able to not marry, or marry whomever you choose. As Jasu’s mother states, “If my son is happy with his marriage, I should openly back him. Time has changed now, one should understand it.”