A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities or reduced capacity, cannot) consent to the marriage as they are pressurised or abuse is used to force them to do so. It is recognised in the UK as a form of domestic/child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.
The pressure put on people to marry against their will may be physical (for example, threats, physical violence or sexual violence) and/or emotional and psychological (for example, making someone feel like they are bringing ‘shame’ on their family). Financial abuse (for example, taking someone’s wages) may also be a factor.
The government made forced marriage a criminal offence in England and Wales in 2014 to protect victims and send a clear message that this practice is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated. In 2017 the government introduced lifelong anonymity for victims of forced marriage to encourage more victims of this hidden crime to come forward.
The Forced Marriage Unit is a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office unit which provides support and advice to victims, professionals, and those at risk. It operates both inside the UK, where support is provided to individuals, and overseas, where consular assistance is provided to British nationals including dual nationals.
Guidance on what to do if you’re trying to stop or leave a forced marriage, please visit the GOV.UK support page.
The government is committed to ensuring that professionals who are made aware of a forced marriage victim have the training and guidance they need to provide effective advice and support. This includes police officers, social workers, teachers, and safeguarding professionals.
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7008 0151
Email for outreach work: firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook: Forced Marriage page
Foreign and Commonwealth Office +44 (0) 20 7008 3100
Home Office +44 (0) 20 7035 3535
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 made it a criminal offence in England, Wales and Scotlland to force someone to marry. (It is a criminal offence in Northern Ireland under separate legislation).
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 are pressured to or not)
Forcing someone to marry can result in a sentence of up to 7 years in prison.
Breaching the terms of a Forced Marriage Protection Order, imposed under the Family Act 1996, can result in a sentence of up to 5 years in prison.
It is also possible for victims or those at risk to apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO). As a civil law measure, an application for a FMPO would be made in the family court. Read guidance from the Ministry of Justice on taking out an FMPO
Failure to comply with the requirements or terms set out in a FMPO granted by the Family Court, is a criminal offence and can result in a sentence of up to 5 years in prison.
The government is committed to ensure that professionals who are made aware of a forced marriage victim have the training and guidance they need to provide effective advice and support. This includes police officers, social workers, teachers, and safeguarding professionals.
The Force Marriage Unit (FMU) has created:
Multi-Agency practice guidelines: Handling cases of forced marriage, which provides step-by-step advice for frontline workers, including health professionals, educational staff, police, children’s social care, adult social services and local authority housing
Multi-Agency Statutory Guidance for dealing with forced marriage, which provides guidance for all persons and bodies who exercise public functions in relation to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and vulnerable adults.
The FMU has also developed free forced marriage e-learning for professionals. The modules aim to enable professionals to recognise the warning signs and ensure that appropriate action is taken to help protect and support all those at risk.