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What is forced marriage?



A forced marriage should not be confused with an arranged marriage. 

An arranged marriage is where both parties willingly and freely consent to the marriage. In an arranged marriage the party to be married has the final say on their spouse. The party to be married can freely reject as many potential marriage partners as they wish, until they meet one they are happy to marry.

A forced marriage is where one or both parties do not consent to the marriage and are either abused or pressured into the marriage. This can take the form of physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Typical examples of this type of abuse include emotional blackmail, threats and assaults. Victims of forced marriage are sometimes coerced into returning to their country of origin for a marriage under false pretences then forced into the marriage whilst abroad.

Forced Marriage Protection Orders (FMPO)(opens in new window) have been introduced to protect victims from being forced into marriage in the UK and abroad. The order can also assist a person who has already been forced into a marriage, particularly a victim who is abroad.

Breaching the conditions or requirements set out in a Forced Marriage Protection Order is a criminal offence and can result in a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Forced marriage is a serious offence which can involve a number of crimes:

  • Assault
  • Controlling and coercive behaviour
  • Child abuse and abduction
  • Kidnap
  • Sexual assault
  • False imprisonment
  • Murder

What to do if you are a UK resident overseas

If you are overseas and are worried about being involved in forced marriage there are  there is a number of things you can do:

  • Before you leave, tell a trusted teacher or friend the date when you expect to return, a contact number, passport number and your intended address overseas. You can then ask that person to contact the police or the Forced Marriage Unit with those details if you do not return or you can contact that person to contact the necessary authorities on your behalf.
  • Contact the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) (opens in new window) at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Try and keep your passport with you and keep or memorise emergency contact numbers for the High Commission of the country you are visiting, available on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website (opens in new window)
  • If possible hide cash and a mobile phone to make emergency contact.

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