Forced Marriage

Durham constabulary define forced marriage as, “A marriage conducted without the valid consent of one or both parties, where duress is a factor”

It is important to remember the difference between forced marriage and arranged marriage. Arranged marriage is a union which is usually arranged, or supported by a family. It is considered consensual; neither party are forced into agreeing to the arrangement. Forced marriage is an arrangement with which one or both parties are forced/coerced into complying. Most cases of forced marriage involve women and girls aged 13-30. It is believed that in as many as 15% of cases of forced marriage both parties are non-consenting and, as such, are both victims.

Arranged marriage is legal, whilst the offences associated with forced marriage are illegal. Forced marriage is domestic abuse and the compliance of one or both parties is usually enforced by control as well as physical, emotional and sometimes sexual abuse.

“perpetrators [of forced marriage] usually parents, friends or family members could be prosecuted for offences including conspiracy, threatening behaviour, assault, kidnap, abduction, theft of the individual’s personal belongings (often official documents such as passports), 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 long time until she becomes pregnant” (Durham constabulary, 2014)

Both arranged marriage and forced marriage can occur anywhere in the world and within all cultures and religions, however most occur within families of South Asian origin and British/Irish traveller communities. Anyone could be a victim, however many victims are forced into marriage as a means of control when family believe their child may not conform to their expectations. For example, evidence would suggest a significant proportion of women and men forced into marriage identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

There are often links to child exploitation as young women and girls are commonly forced into marriage with consenting men. This rarely occurs in the UK but it is not uncommon for girls to be taken abroad to be forced into marriage. This issue is closely linked to so-called ‘honour-based violence’.

As with most victims of domestic abuse, victims of forced marriage do not feel that they can report the matter to the police or even walk out of the marriage, as they may be hurt, killed or bring shame to the family. There is help and support out there for victims, or those who believe they may become victims of forced marriage.

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) was set up in 2005 as a joint initiative with the Home office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It operates inside the UK, and abroad wherever consular assistance is provided to British Nationals and Dual Nationals. It provides a helpline for anyone seeking advice on Forced marriage.

To report a case of forced marriage, for advice and help or professional guidance, contact any of the following:
Forced marriage unit: +44 (0) 20 7008 0151 Also available on facebook and twitter: @FMUnit
Karma Nirvana: 0800 5999247 Forced Marriage website:
In an emergency call 999.

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