Towards the end of 2008, news audiences in the United Kingdom followed the story of Humayra Abedin, a 33-year-old NHS doctor from East London who was allegedly being held captive in her native Bangladesh by her parents who planned to force her to marry a husband they deemed suitable for her. Abedin sought help, and returned to the United Kingdom on the 16th of December after the High Court had issued an injunction ordering the parents of Abedin to free her. This story does not stand alone: most Western European countries know of similar cases. According to Razack, such cases have signalled the beginning of European legal involvement in the area of forced marriages. Since the 1990s, forced marriage has become a hot political issue in several European countries.
The aim of the study was to create an international and actual overview on the policy on forced marriages in Western Europe. Seeing that the study deals with debates and policy it is necessary to emphasise here that the topic of the study was not so much actual cases of forced marriage as the perception of forced marriage in the different countries. The central question was then to examine what is known about the policy and discussions on forced marriages in Belgium, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. Instead of focusing exclusively on policy, a choice was made for including the societal context in the form of debates on forced marriage in order to have a more complete overview.