Forced Marriage (FM)

A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used.  This can be defined as forcing a person (whether by physical force or coercion by threats or other psychological means) to enter into a religious or civil ceremony of marriage (whether or not legally binding).  The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be physical (including threats, actual physical violence and sexual violence) or emotional and psychological (for example, when someone is made to feel like they’re bringing shame on their family). Financial abuse (taking your wages or not giving you any money) can also be a factor.

Forced marriages happen in many religions and nationalities and it doesn’t just affect girls - boys can also be forced into marriage. It can also happen to children and adults. Refusing to marry someone chosen by the family may be seen as dishonourable which can then lead to honour based violence.

FM is recognised in the UK as a form of abuse and a human rights violation.  FM is a specific offence under s121 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

The responsibility for policy relating to forced marriage rests jointly with the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. They have established the Forced Marriage Unit whose role it is to provide information and support to victims of forced marriage and provide advice to professionals handling cases. Further information is available from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.