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 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.

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.

How can the police help?

All agencies 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 criminalise 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.

The Forced Marriage Unit Foreign and Commonwealth Office are also available to help and advice you and they can be contacted on 0207 008 0151.

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.

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 in case you have to call them in an emergency
  • Have addresses of British Embassies available

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Support agencies

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