Forced Marriage

A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning or physical disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used.  These differ from arranged marriages, where both parties consent and enter into them freely.  Forced marriage can happen to anyone despite their sex, sexual preference, disability, faith or ethnicity. 

In a forced marriage, one or both partners are pressured either emotionally, psychologically (such as being made to feel like they’re bringing shame on their family) or physically (through threats, actual physical violence and/or sexual violence) to marry against their will.  Pressure can also be applied financially (for example taking your wages or not giving you any money). 

Forced marriage is now illegal in England and Wales. This includes:

  • taking someone overseas to force them to marry (whether or not the forced marriage takes place)
     
  • marrying someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage (whether they’re pressured to or not)

 

Forcing someone to marry can result in a sentence of up to 7 years in prison.

Everyone in the UK has the right to choose who they marry, irrespective of religion, family views, age or sexuality. The law in Britain helps to protect against forced marriages. For more information, see the What is Forced Marriage? booklet.

 

Advice for specific groups

If you (or the person you are concerned about) are under 16, male, disabled or LGBT, you will find all the information on this page useful, however there are also specific organisations who can help you :

Under 16: contact Childline. You can call email, or log on for 1-2-1 support. 

Male: contact the Mens Advice Line

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender: Broken Rainbow can offer advice about domestic abuse.  Also see the What is Forced Marriage? LGBT Booklet

If you are supporting someone with a learning disability then you can link to guidance on the Am I Being Forced To Marry website.

 

If you are under pressure to marry against your will or believe you may be forced into marriage

There are a range of agencies who can help.  Seek guidance from Luton All Women's Centre, Women's Aid in Luton, or one of the other agencies listed on this page to talk through your exact situation and the options open to you.  The Forced Marriage Unit can help if you are being forced to marry to sponsor a spouse’s visa.  The Freedom Project has developed a smartphone app which allows the user to be a couple of button presses away from help in emergency situations; see their website at freedomcharity.org.uk for more information.

You could apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order to prevent the marriage; see the Forced Marriage Unit website or the leaflet Forced Marriage Protection Orders : How can they protect me? (English)  

The Forced Marriage Survivors Handbook has a lot of information on support to leave a forced marriage, and organising your life during and afterwards.

 

If you are under pressure to marry against your will or believe you may be forced into marriage whilst overseas

If you fear you may be forced into marriage overseas, or know someone else who may be, contact the Forced Marriage Unit on 0207 008 0151 (or 0044 20 7008 if you are overseas).  For out of hours emergencies, please telephone 0207 008 1500 and ask to speak to the Global Response Centre. They can also help if you are being forced to marry to sponsor a spouse’s visa.

If you cannot get out of travelling; be prepared and prepare a kit containing money, mobile phone or SIM card and contact details of the nearest British High Commission for the area you are traveling to; see gov.uk/government/world/organisations

If you are already overseas, contact the nearest British Representative (find them on gov.uk/government/world/organisations)  or the Forced Marriage Unit immediately on 0044 20 7008; they can help to repatriate you.  For out of hours emergencies, please telephone: 0207 008 1500 and ask to speak to the Global Response Centre.

 

If you believe someone you know or work with may be forced into marriage

They may not want to speak openly about their situation, so warning signs are :

  • Extended absence away from school/college/work, or have not returned from an overseas holiday, drop in performance, low motivation, excessive parental restriction and control of movements and/or career choice, history of siblings leaving education to marry.
  • Evidence of self-harm, treatment for depression, attempted suicide, social isolation, eating disorders or substance abuse.
  • Evidence of family disputes/conflict, domestic violence/abuse or running away from home. 
  • Someone with learning or other disabilities says their family have told them they are going to get married or are buying jewellery or wedding clothes, or they suddenly need a passport application form signing.

For more information, read the other sections on this page.  Remember, the person you are concerned about may not be at risk, but please call the Forced Marriage Unit to discuss it – your concerns may be justified. 

 

If you are in a forced marriage and want to get out

Seek guidance from Luton All Women's Centre, Women's Aid in Luton, or one of the other agencies listed below to talk through your exact situation and the options open to you. They can help you through the process.

You could apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order; see the Forced Marriage Unit website and the Forced Marriage Protection Orders: How can they protect me? leaflet. The Forced Marriage Survivors Handbook has a lot of information on support to leave a forced marriage, and organising your life while you are leaving, and afterwards.

 

Immigration Cases

Contact the Forced Marriage Unit if you are being forced to sponsor a spouse’s visa so they can settle in the UK.

 

Booklets and information to read/print

What is Forced Marriage? booklet

The Forced Marriage Survivors Handbook

What is Forced Marriage?  LGBT Booklet

Forced Marriage Protection Orders : How can they protect me? (English)

Forced Marriage Protection Orders : How can they protect me? (Arabic)

Forced Marriage Protection Orders : How can they protect me? (Bengali)

Forced Marriage Protection Orders : How can they protect me? (Farsi)

Forced Marriage Protection Orders : How can they protect me? (Punjabi)

Forced Marriage Protection Orders : How can they protect me? (Urdu)

Forced Marriage and Learning Disabilities : Multi Agency Practice Guidelines

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