Forced Marriage

What is Forced Marriage?

In a forced marriage the victim(s) is/are pressured into marrying someone against their will. The victim may be physically threatened or emotionally blackmailed to do so. It is an abuse of human rights and cannot be justified on any religious or cultural basis. it can affect men and women. It can also be linked to Human Slavery Offences such as domestic servitude.

A forced marriage is not the same as an arranged marriage where the individual has a choice as to whether to accept the arrangement or not. The tradition of arranged marriages has operated successfully within many communities and countries for a very long time. 

Forced marriage is a form of domestic violence and child abuse. According to the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), forced marriages happen because of:

  • controlling unwanted behaviour and sexuality, particularly that of women, and preventing ‘unsuitable' relationships
  • peer group or family pressure
  • projecting perceived cultural or religious ideals which can often be misguided
  • attempting to strengthen family links
  • family honour or long standing family commitments
  • ensuring land remains within the family
  • assisting claims for residence and citizenship
  • providing a carer for a disabled family member/reducing the ‘stigma' of disability

This video is froma survivor of Forced Marriage and whose sister Banaz was brutally murdered by her father, uncle and two others.

The FMU deal with approximately 300 cases per year, of which around 25% result in rescue or repatriation. A report (March 2008) by Dr Nazia Khanum on forced marriage in Luton found that there were approximately 300 approaches to agencies for advice regarding forced marriage per year. Some of these may have been multiple approaches by one person and some may not have been forced into marriage. However both the FMU, Dr Khanum and specialist support agencies believe that the numbers who report are the minority, and most remain silent.

Females are mostly affected but about 15% of the cases are male victims. The most prevalent ages are between 15 and 24 but can be as young as 10 and some come forward years after being forced into marriage.

The majority of cases reported to the FMU come from Pakistan (65%), Bangladesh (25%), and India. However cases have also been reported from Cyprus, Jordan, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Mali, Norway, Bosnia, and Hong Kong. There have also been incidents from the travelling community and Ireland. It was not that long ago in the indigenous white population of Britain that there were ‘shotgun weddings', whereby people were forced into marrying when a pregnancy occurred. Today duress can be put on a family member not to marry a particular person or they may disown their child for being gay/lesbian.

If you are being, or have been, forced into marrying someone or know of someone who is then it is important to get the right advice.

Are you suffering from forced marriage?

  • Are you being pressured to get married but don't want to?
  • Is a close member of your family threatening to hurt you if you don't accept the marriage?
  • Is anyone abusing you verbally or physically and pressuring you to get married?
  • Have you already been forced into a marriage?
  • Are you being forced to live with a marriage partner you did not choose and you do not want to be with?
  • Are you being prevented from going out at all?
  • Are you being prevented from going to school or college or from having a job?

What can you do?

Read the UK's multi agency statutory guidance on Forced Marriage — see "Resources" section below.

You have the right to refuse and not accept a marriage.

You can look for help and have the right to legal protection against abuse and being forced into a marriage – see "Support Services" and "Resources" sections below.

If you are already married you have the right to legally separate or annul a forced marriage – at present a petition must be made to the court in the UK within 3 years of the marriage

Whatever your situation is, you can talk to someone in confidence about your feelings and find out more about your rights and options before making any decisions.

Forced Marriage Protection Orders

The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 came into force on 25 November 2008. The Act enables family courts to make Forced Marriage Protection Orders to protect someone from being forced into marriage. An order can also be made to protect someone who has already been forced into marriage, to help remove them from the situation. The Act sends out a strong signal that forced marriage will not be tolerated. Those who fail to obey an order may be found in contempt of court and sent to prison for up to two years.

Each Forced Marriage Protection Order, made by the court, will contain terms that are designed to protect the victim in their particular circumstances. Examples of the types of orders the court may make are

  • to prevent a forced marriage from occurring
  • to hand over passports
  • to stop intimidation and violence
  • to reveal the whereabouts of a person
  • to stop someone from being taken abroad

The Act also enables the court to respond to emergency situations, by making orders without notice to the respondent(s).

Support Services

If it is an emergency dial 999

Click on titles below to link to respective websites

Forced Marriage Unit

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) can give advice and support. They will not contact the victim's family. Contact the FMU if you’re trying to stop a forced marriage or you need help leaving a marriage you’ve been forced into.

Tel: 020 7008 0151


Karma Nirvana

Karma Nirvana’s staff and most of its 18 volunteers are survivors of forced marriage and/or "honour" based abuse.

Tel: 0800 5999 247

Forced Marriage

This website provides advice, information and essential contacts to help people out of a forced marriage.

Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation

Support for Farsi, Kurdish, Arabic and Turkish speaking women, girls and couples.

Tel: 0207 920 6490

Kiran Support Services

Kiran Support Services provides safe, temporary accommodation for Asian women and their children escaping domestic violence. Also provides advice, outreach work and resettlement support.

Tel: 020 8558 1986


Southall Black Sisters

Offering specialist advice, information, casework, advocacy, counselling and self-help support for Asian and African-Caribbean women. Services in several community languages.

Tel: 0208 571 0800

Rights of Women

Rights of Women works to attain justice and equality by informing, educating and empowering women on their legal rights.

Tel: 020 7251 6577


The video below highlights one woman's escape from a forced marriage in Syria to return home to Australia.