/ Domestic Abuse: Forced marriage

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A forced marriage is:

"A marriage conducted without the valid consent of one or both parties, where duress is a factor".

  • Forced marriages are a form of domestic abuse and are dealt with as such by the police.
  • Forced marriages are where one or both persons involved get forced into a marriage that they do not want to enter and do not consent to the marriage.
  • Sometimes it is parents forcing their child to get married or sometimes it can be the extended family or community.
  • It can happen between people in this country or between someone from this country with someone abroad.

How do arranged marriages differ from forced marriages?

There is a clear difference between a forced marriage and an arranged marriage. In arranged marriages the families of both parties take a leading role in arranging the marriage, but the choice as to whether or not to accept the arrangement remains with the prospective spouses.

In forced marriages, one or both spouses do not (or, in the case of some vulnerable adults cannot) consent to the marriage and some element of duress is involved. Duress can include physical, psychological, sexual and emotional pressure.

Are forced marriages a criminal offence?

  • Forced marriage itself is not a criminal offence, however the offences associated to a forced marriage are a criminal offence.
  • Where someone has been forced to marry then inevitably there will be some element of criminality.

Perpetrators, usually parents or family members could be prosecuted for offences including conspiracy, threatening behaviour, assault, kidnap, abduction, theft of the individuals personal belongings (often official documents such as a passport), threats to kill, imprisonment and murder. Sexual intercourse without consent is rape, regardless of whether this occurs within a marriage or not.

A person who is forced into marriage is likely to be raped and may be raped over a number of years 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.

Which communities do forced marriages happen in?

All communities. We are aware it happens all over and we want to encourage particular communities to understand that this is force and to be confident enough to report to the police.


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, although there is evidence to suggest that as many as 15 per cent of victims are male.

It is felt that men may still be a reluctant to report to the police that they have been forced into a marriage.

Currently some 300 cases of forced marriage are reported to the Forced Marriage Unit each year, many more cases come to the attention of police, social services, health, education and voluntary organisations, while many others go unreported. With greater awareness, the number of cases reported is likely to increase.

How can police help?

We want to encourage potential victims and those already in a forced marriage to seek support and help from the police. We have specialist officers who can deal with the issues and they will help and support you throughout the process.

Obviously we understand that many victims do not want to criminalize family members and may be reluctant to call the police, however we would encourage you to do so if this is the only way to get you out of the situation.

Foreign and Commonwealth assistance

The Forced Marriage Unit  at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are also available to help and advice you and they can be contacted on 0207 008 0151 or email: fmu@fco.gov.uk

In particular the FCO can help to repatriate you back to this country if you have been forced into a marriage abroad. It is important that you don’t feel like there is no one there to help you.

Reporting A Forced Marriage

We will recognise and respect the victim's wishes, respect confidentiality, establish lines of communication and provide appropriate support and guidance via a number or recognised support agencies.

You can report a forced marriage via the normal means of communicating with GMP listed on the Contact Us page. Always call 999 in an emergency when a crime is in progress or life in danger. In a non-emergency, call 101.

In addition we have Specialist Domestic Abuse Investigators and Community Race Relations Officers on each division or by calling 0161 872 5050.

Police Response

Forced marriages are a legitimate issue to report to the police. We will support and protect the victim and investigate criminal offences.

Situations whereby a forced marriage may come to the attention of the police include:

  • An individual who fears they may be forced to marry.
  • A report by a third party of an individual having been taken abroad for the purpose of a forced marriage.
  • An individual who has already been forced to marry a spouse who comes from overseas.

The Legal Position

  • The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, states that a marriage shall be voidable if “either party to the marriage did not validly consent to it, whether in consequence of duress, mistake, unsoundness of mind or otherwise”.
  • The Marriage Act 1949 and the Matrimonial Act 1973 states that the minimum age at which a person is able to consent to marriage is 16. A person between the ages of 16-18 will require parental consent to marry (unless the young person is a widow/widower).

Forced Marriage Protection Orders (Civil Protection Act 2007)

A Forced Marriage Protection order can be made by a Family Court in order to protect victims, both adults and children of a potential forced marriage or people who are already in a forced marriage. This is a legal document issued by a judge designed to protect individuals according to their particular circumstances. It contains legally binding conditions and directions that require a change in the behaviour of a person or persons trying to force another person into marriage.

Forced Marriage Protection Orders may be made to prevent a forced marriage from occurring, to stop intimidation and violence, to reveal the whereabouts of a person, to stop somebody from being taken abroad, to hand over passports etc. The court may attach a power of arrest to any order made. You can find out more about forced marriage protection orders here.

Safety Advice

If you really don’t want to talk to the police or other agencies then please think about 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 traveling abroad and give them addresses of where you will be staying and also details of your return flight so they can alert the police if you fail to return on that date
  • Have a mobile to hand that you can be contacted on and leave the number with trusted people so you are contactable
  • Memorise police phone numbers, and/or email addresses of the Forced Marriage unit and trusted friends incase you have to call them in an emergency
  • Have addresses of British Embassies available

Support Agencies

Bangladeshi Women’s Centre - 0161 257 3867
Advice, information and support for Bangladeshi women including the issues of domestic abuse, forced marriage and ‘honour’ based violence. Other areas covered include welfarerights, housing, health, education and training, employment and immigration and nationality.

Henna Foundation - 02920 498600/496920
Henna Foundation is a registered charity that whose work involves supporting and seeking assistance to protect victims of ‘honour’ related crime, abuses & violence including cases of Forced marriages.

Honour Network (Karma Nirvana) - 0800 5999 247
The Honour Network helpline is a confidential helpline providing emotional and practical support and advice for victims and survivors (male & female) of forced marriage and/or ‘honour’ based violence and abuse.

Independent Choices - 0161 636 7534
This is a voluntary organisation promoting the rights and meeting the needs of women who have experienced domestic abuse. Supports victims and provides a help line facility and refuge accommodation.

Iranian and Kurdish Women’ Rights Organisation (IKWRO) - 020 7490 0303
Provides support and advice in Arabic, Kurdish, Turkish and Farsi to women, girls and men living in Britain, in areas including domestic abuse and ‘honour’ based issues.

Saheli - 0161 945 4187
Saheli is an organisation for Asian women run by Asian women. Saheli provides emergency, temporary refuge accommodation to South Asian women and their children who are fleeing domestic abuse situations. The refuge offers a children's service to ensure that children's needs are met, for example through play session and one to one work.

Southall Black Sisters - 020 8571 9595 (10am-12.30pm and 1.30pm-4pm) 
This is a resource centre offering information, advice, advocacy, practical help, counselling, and support to black and minority women experiencing domestic abuse. Southall Black Sisters specialise in forced marriage particularly in relation to South Asian women. The office is open weekdays (except Wednesday)

Lesbian and Gay Foundation - 0845 3 30 30 30
Confidential helpline and centre offering information, advice, advocacy, practical help, counseling, and support to men and women experiencing domestic abuse, honour based violence or are victims of forced marriage.

Men’s Advice Line - 0808 801 0327 (Mon-Fri 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm)
Confidential helpline for men who experience violence from their partners and ex partners. They provide emotional support, practical advice and inform men of specialist services that can give them advice on legal, housing, child contact, mental health and other issues.

National Domestic Violence helpline - 0808 2000 247 (Freephone, 24 Hour)
Run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge. This service provides information, support, and practical help, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to women experiencing domestic abuse. It can refer women and their children to refuges throughout the UK. All calls are taken in strictest confidence. Alternatively, you can contact the local Women’s Aid service through the local phone book, or access the Women’s Aid website

This free, confidential service for anyone concerned about children at risk of harm offers counselling, information and advice. The service also connects vulnerable young people, particularly runaways, to services that can help. It is open Monday to Friday between 11am and 7pm.

Asian Child Protection Helpline

  • Bengali speaking advisor - 0800 096 7714
  • Gujarati - 0800 096 7715
  • Hindi - 0800 096 7716
  • Punjabi - 0800 096 7717
  • Urdu - 0800 096 7718
  • English - 0800 096 7719
  • This free, 24-hour helpline provides information, advice and counselling to anyone
  • concerned about a child at risk of abuse.
  • 0808 800 5000 (helpline)
  • 0800 056 0566 (text phone)

Broken Rainbow - 08452 255 6234
Support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people experiencing domestic violence.

Careline - 0208 8514 1177
This is a national confidential counselling line for children, young people and adults on any issue including family, marital and relationship problems, child abuse, rape and sexual assault, depression and anxiety.

Child Line - 0800 1111
This service is for any child or young person with a problem.

The Citizens Advice Bureau
The Citizens Advice Bureau offers free, confidential and impartial information and advice on a wide range of subjects including consumer rights, debt, benefits, housing, employment, immigration, family and personal matters.

Manchester Airport Immigration 0161 489 3576
Immigration may be able to assist you with enquiries in relation to passports, dual nationality or i

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