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Supporting People Affected by Forced Marriage in Switzerland through Digital Transformation

The freedom to choose a spouse is a fundamental human right that equally applies to all human beings, regardless of race, nationality, or religion. Still, each year, there are over 300 cases of women being forcefully wed against their will in Switzerland alone. In this research, we will be collaborating with the Federal Competence Centre against Forced Marriages and investigate the experiences of individuals affected by forced marriages from various cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds. We further examine the processes and challenges for help organizations that provide assistance to people in forced marriage situations and explore opportunities for the design of technologies to support such individuals. Individuals in forced marriages often have constraints on their ability to seek help, such as surveillance of their communications or limited privacy. Certain basic assumptions regarding the privacy of digital interactions and devices may not apply to individuals in forced marriage situations and may require a fundamental rethinking of how to support communication through design. We will be exploring technological interventions using human-centred approaches to help affected individuals with communication, access to resources and information, and foster independence. With this research, we aim to call attention to an important problem and vulnerable population whom we believe could benefit from digital transformation. 

Core team: 

Nimra Ahmed, UZH Department of Informatics

Prof. Dr. Elaine M. Huang, UZH Department of Informatics

Prof. Dr. Monika Götzö, ZHAW Social Work

Prof. Dr. Dirk Baier, ZHAW Social Work

Dr. Susanne Nef, ZHAW Social Work

Practice partner: 

Swiss Centre of Competence against Forced Marriage (“Fachstelle Zwangsheirat” CoCFM)

Running time: 2023-2026

Further information

What would an app need to do in order to help women who find themselves in a situation of forced marriage? Through a Human-Computer Interaction design process, Bachelor graduate Nimra Ahmed developed the prototype of an app that offers help and information to those affected and supports the work of a national help organization. The Bachelor’s Thesis in Informatics “Designing Technology for People Affected by Forced Marriage in Switzerland” was awarded with the Impact Award