A forced marriage is a marriage where one or both people do not consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used to ensure the marriage goes ahead. This can also apply where people have a learning or physical disability and cannot freely give their consent to marriage.
An arranged marriage is not the same as a forced marriage. In an arranged marriage the families take a leading role in choosing the marriage partner but the choice of whether or not to enter the marriage is left to the two people intended to marry.
A marriage must be entered into with the full and free consent of both people and everyone involved should feel that they have the choice to marry or not.
Sometimes pressure is put on people to marry against their will. This pressure 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 can also be a factor (for example taking your wages or not giving you any money).
Sometimes people may be taken abroad without knowing that arrangements have been made for them to be married and when they arrive in the other country their passport(s) may be taken by their family to try to stop them from returning home.
Forced marriage is an abuse of human rights and a form of violence against women and men. When forced marriage involves children, it is child abuse and where it affects those with disabilities it is abuse of vulnerable people.
Help and support
If you or someone you know is being forced into a marriage; if you are trying to stop a forced marriage from taking place or if you need help leaving a marriage that you have been forced into you can contact the Forced Marriage Unit at:
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Out of hours: 020 7008 1500 (ask for the Global Response Centre)
More information and details of organisations providing help and support is available in the Forced Marriage Handbook on the gov.uk website.