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Forced marriage

A forced marriage is one in which either or both people involved don’t consent to the marriage. Forced marriages are a form of domestic abuse and are dealt with as such by the police.

Victims can be forced into marriage in different ways – this may include physical, psychological, financial, sexual or emotional pressure.

Any marriage involving someone who lacks the capacity to give consent is a forced marriage.

You can access information and advice on forced marriage on the UK government website.

What is forced marriage?

Sometimes, it is when parents force their child to get married. Sometimes pressure can come from the extended family or community.

It can happen between people in this country, or between someone from this country with someone abroad.

While forced marriage itself is not a criminal offence, the harmful behaviours associated with it are. They include conspiracy, threatening behaviour, assault, kidnap, abduction, theft of an individual's personal belongings (often official documents such as a passport), threats to kill, imprisonment and murder.

Sexual intercourse without consent is rape, regardless of whether it occurs within a marriage or not. A person who is forced into marriage is likely to be raped, and may be raped repeatedly until she becomes pregnant. Often, victims do not feel that they can report the matter to the police or even walk out of the marriage, as they would disgrace their family’s honour.

Forced marriage is primarily, but not exclusively, an issue of violence against women. Most cases involve young women and girls aged between 13 and 30 years old, although there is evidence to suggest that as many as 15 per cent of victims are male.

Safety advice for those at risk of forced marriage

If you really don’t want to talk to the police or other agencies, then please consider the following safety advice if you think you may be forced into a marriage, in this country or abroad.

  • Keep a copy of your passport, including dual nationality passports.
  • Tell a trusted friend if you are travelling abroad. Give them addresses of where you will be staying and details of your return flight, so they can alert the police if you fail to return.
  • Have a mobile phone to hand that you can be contacted on and leave the number with trusted people.
  • Memorise police phone numbers and those of trusted friends in case you have to call them in an emergency.
  • Have addresses of British Embassies available.