Forced marriage

If you or someone you know is being forced into marriage, there is help and advice available.

A forced marriage is an abuse of human rights, and a form of domestic abuse and child abuse. It has no place in our society.

What is a ‘forced marriage’?

A marriage must be entered into with the full and free consent of both people. A ‘forced marriage’ occurs when one or both people are ‘forced’ into a marriage - it is done without the valid consent of both people.

  • Reported figures show that 250 British citizens are being forced into marriage every year.
  • The age of victims ranges from 13 to 30 years old. 15% of victims are male.
  • For more information, including why forced marriage happens, view the ‘What is a forced marriage?’ guide (opens new window), by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Examples of force

  • Physical pressure, abuse or physical threats.
  • Emotional pressure, abuse or emotional threats - when someone makes you feel like you’re bringing shame on your family, for example.
  • Abduction and imprisonment.
  • Other restrictions on freedom of movement and association.

What is an ‘arranged marriage’?

A ‘forced marriage’ is different to an ‘arranged marriage’.

An arranged marriage is a valuable, long-established tradition based on compatibility, consent and retaining choice. The families take a leading role in choosing the marriage partner and the marriage is entered into freely by both people.

Report forced marriage

If you or someone you know is being forced into marriage, either in the United Kingdom or abroad, please contact the Forced Marriage Unit. They can provide confidential support and information.

New powers to protect people from forced marriage

Since November 2008, courts have had new powers to protect people from forced marriages.

The Family Proceedings (Amendment) Rules 2008, SI 2008/2446 set out the procedural code for the High Court or county courts to make orders preventing individuals from being forced to marry against their will. These orders can be made under the new Pt 4A of the Family Law Act 1996, which was inserted by the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 and comes into force at the same time as the Rules.

The orders can contain such prohibitions, restrictions and requirements as the court considers appropriate: for example handing over of passports, ordering a person to reveal the whereabouts of a person thought to be at risk, and stopping someone from being taken abroad.

Under the legislation, a victim, friend or the police can apply to court for an order. The order can have a power of arrest attached to it. Where a forced marriage has taken place, the courts can also make orders to protect the victim and help remove them from that situation.

Guidelines produced by the Forced Marriage Unit in co-operation with other Government departments, for groups working with forced marriage victims, including the police, social services, health and education professionals are now on a statutory footing.