Marriage and Migration: Moroccan Women’s Views on Partner Choice, Arranged and Forced Marriage in Belgium

  • Alexia SabbeEmail author
  • Karima El Boujaddayni
  • Marleen Temmerman
  • Els Leye


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.


Marriage and migration Family reunification Partner choice Forced marriage and arranged marriage Moroccan community Belgium 



The authors thank all the participants for their valuable time and input. We are also very grateful to all who reviewed this paper, especially A. La Velle.

Funding Information

This work was supported by the Flemish Interuniversity Council (Vlaamse Interuniversitaire Raad)–Institutional University Development Cooperation [VLADOC grant 2009-04] and by the Agentschap Integratie & Inburgering [Managers van Diversiteit 2010/01/016].

Compliance with Ethical Standards

This study received ethics approval from the Ethics Board of the Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences at Ghent University

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Centre for Reproductive Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health SciencesGhent, Ghent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Faculty of Psychology and Educational SciencesGhent University, Senzo vzw (not for profit organisation supporting ethnic minorities with a disability)GhentBelgium
  3. 3.Department of Obstetrics and GynaecologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  4. 4.Centre of Excellence in Women and Child HealthAga Khan University East AfricaNairobiKenya

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