Marriage and migration: Moroccan women’s views on partner choice, arranged and forced marriage in Belgium

Alexia Sabbe, Ghent University
Karima El Boujaddayni, Ghent University
Marleen Temmerman, Aga Khan University
Els Leye, Ghent University


With family reunification as one of the key routes to legally gain entry to the European Union, governments are introducing more stringent legislation to counter abuses such as forced marriages and marriages of convenience. This study explores Moroccan women’s views on partner choice, arranged and forced marriages to ascertain the impact of the migratory context. Moreover, it examined whether the diasporic experience affects the occurrence of forced marriage. Using a participatory approach, focus-group discussions and in-depth interviews were held with women from the Moroccan community in both urban and provincial settings in Flanders, Belgium. Our findings indicate a preference for a partner in Belgium. Religion as opposed to ethnicity emerges as the most important attribute in a partner. Furthermore, religion is also a progressive voice in opinions on forced marriage and the virginity norm. Although forced marriages are no longer a pressing issue among the youth of the Moroccan Belgian community, the immigration legislation and policies that aim to enhance integration and tackle forced marriage and marriages of convenience appear to effectively deter women from choosing a partner from Morocco. Overall, the diasporic experience and migration context do not give rise to an increase of forced marriage among the Moroccan community; yet, arranged marriage is prevalent, even though it is on the decline.