Forced marriage and school holidays

As the school holidays approach and travel restrictions are lifted, there is a risk of children being taken abroad, and being forced to marry. Forced marriage is illegal.

We need to stay alert to Signs of children and young people being in potential danger of Forced Marriage. It is important to act quickly, without alerting family members or friends who may be part of the plans.

Find out how to get help

Support services for female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage and "honour" based abuse

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed, but there's no medical reason for this to be done. It's also known as female circumcision or cutting, and by other terms, such as sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan, among others.

FGM is usually carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15, most commonly before puberty starts. It is illegal in the UK. FGM is child abuse and is illegal in the UK.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) usually happens to girls whose mothers, grandmothers or extended female family members have had FGM themselves, or if their father comes from a community where it's carried out.

It is often performed by traditional circumcisers or cutters who do not have any medical training. But in some countries it may be done by a medical professional.

Anaesthetics and antiseptics are not generally used, and FGM is often carried out using knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades.

Report FGM

If you are concerned that FGM is going to take place, refer the child to children’s services. If a child has disclosed to you that FGM has taken place, as a social care professional or teacher, you have a mandatory duty to report this to police.

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Forced marriage

Forced marriage is when you face physical, emotional or psychological pressure to marry someone you don’t want to. Forced marriage is illegal in the UK. 

Forced marriages are often organised by parents, family members or religious leaders. Those who do not comply with the forced marriage, can face ‘honour’ based abuse which can sometimes result in ‘honour’ killings.

Forced marriage is different from an arranged marriage. In an arranged marriage, both parties have a choice of whether they want to marry or not. Forced marriage is a form of domestic abuse.

Examples of pressure to force a marriage

  • Threats to kill you if you don’t marry a certain person
  • Told that your family will be poor if you don’t marry the person they want you to
  • Told that you will bring shame upon your family if you don’t marry a specified person
  • Told that this marriage is approved of by your religious leaders
  • Told that being gay is not acceptable and you need to marry a person of the opposite sex

Potential signs of Forced Marriage in children

  • Child may feel worried or anxious about an upcoming holiday. They may even tell you about an upcoming forced marriage.
  • Children can be restricted of age appropriate opportunities and experiences that are available to their peers.
  • Child may show a drop in performance at school, and often miss days off school.
  • Parent may be overly controlling of where child goes and who they are allowed to socialise with.
  • Child may be self-harming, and have feelings of depression, attempted suicide or social isolation.
  • Child may also show signs of eating disorders or engaging in substance abuse.

Forced marriage protection order

Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) is designed to protect the person being forced to marry/ or someone who is being threatened into Forced Marriage.

You can apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order that can stop you being taken abroad to be married.

  • You do not need a lot of evidence to get an urgent forced marriage protection order.  
  • You can get an emergency order without the parents you are making the order against being involved or knowing.
  • The order can protect according to individual circumstances:
    • To prevent a forced marriage from taking place.
    • Can require the handover of passports.
    • To stop intimidation and violence.
    • And to stop a young person being taken abroad

It is possible to apply for a FMPO after a young person has left, but it is much more difficult to enforce the order, plus the marriage may have already occurred.

If you suspect a young person may be in danger, you should alert your manager (if you work with children) and contact a member of the legal safeguarding team for urgent advice and assistance.

Email duty lawyer: 

Tel: 0207 364 4556.

Useful videos and research

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"Honour" based violence

So-called "honour" based abuse is Is an incident or crime used to describe abuse committed against a person, who the family or the community feels has not followed what they believe is acceptable behaviour. The perpetrators will justify their abuse by claiming that the person has brought dishonour or shame to the family.

Examples of ‘honour’ based abuse

  • Restricting your movements, only being allowed out with members of the family or being followed
  • Being forced to marry a member of the opposite sex because you are gay
  • Being isolated from your friends/family because they are a ‘bad influence’ on you
  • Being threatened when you tell your family you want to divorce your partner
  • Being pressured to move abroad because you have become ‘too westernised’
  • Being forced to have an abortion because the pregnancy is not within marriage

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Support services for female genital mutilation (FGM)

Support services for female genital mutilation (FGM)

Project Azure, Metropolitan Police

Reporting FGM to the police

In an emergency call 999

Tel: 020 7161 2888

Deinfibulation Clinic

Is based at Women’s & Young People’s Services at Mile End Hospital.Sylvia Pankhurst Health Centre, Mile End Hospital, Bancroft Rd. London, E1 4DG


Sylvia Pankhurst Health Centre,

Mile End Hospital, Bancroft Rd.


E1 4DG

Tel: 020 7377 7870

Sister Circle

Is a multi-cultural community health charity based in Tower Hamlets that focuses on health and empowerment issues for disadvantaged women and their families. Sister Circle works to support women who have been affected by FGM, or who are at risk from the practice in the borough.

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm


Tel: 020 7377 8725



OSCA (Ocean Somali Community Association)

Is a charity organisation running free services for residents in East London. Their aim is to provide support services for the Somali community to access opportunities and to strengthen relationships with mainstream service providers to create social changes.

One of OSCA’s active women’s projects is Community against FGM and is funded by the Trust for London. They facilitate dialogues about FGM, its impact and its status in UK law, bringing together young people, women and other members of the community. By raising awareness and overcoming the taboo nature of FGM, the project aims to increase the skills and capacity of the community.

Monday to Friday, 7am to 7pm

Tel: 020 7987 5833



(Foundation for Women's Health Research and Development)

Is a leading African diaspora women’s campaign and support organisation, committed to gender equality and safeguarding the rights of African girls and women.

They work through partnerships in the UK, Europe and Africa to transform lives, tackling discriminatory practices that affect the dignity and wellbeing of girls and women. One of their focuses is FGM

Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm

Tel: 020 8960 4000



Daughters of Eve

A non-profit organisation that works to protect girls and young women who are at risk from female genital mutilation (FGM).

By raising awareness about FGM and sign-posting support services they aim to help people who are affected by FGM and ultimately help bring an end to this practice.

 Text: 07983 030488

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Support services for forced marriage and "honour" based abuse

Support services for forced marriage and "honour" based abuse

Forced Marriage Unit (FMU)

Can be contacted if you’re trying to stop a forced marriage or if you need help supporting someone to leave a forced marriage.

The assistance provided ranges from simple safety advice, through to aiding a victim to prevent their unwanted spouse moving to the UK (‘reluctant sponsor’ cases), and, in extreme circumstances, to rescues of victims held against their will overseas

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Tel: 020 7008 0151

020 7008 1500 (Out of hours, ask for the Global Response Centre)


Email for outreach work:

Ashiana Network

Empowers Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) women, particularly South Asian, Turkish and Middle Eastern women who are experiencing all forms of Violence Against Women & Girls (VAWG). Including domestic violence, sexual violence and harmful practices such as forced marriage, honour based violence & female genital mutilation. Ashiana provides support, counselling and safe housing, enabling women and girls to make positive and appropriate choices for themselves.

Tel: 020 8539 0427



(Iran and Kurdish women's rights organisation)

Provide direct services to Middle Eastern and Afghan women and girls who are at risk of ‘honour’ based violence, forced marriage, child marriage, female genital mutilation and domestic violence. This includes advocacy, training and counselling and promoting clients’ rights. They also provide advice and support to professionals from bodies such as the police, social services and schools to help them to understand issues affecting minority ethnic women.

Tel: 020 7920 6460

Karma Nirvana

Helpline to individuals affected by “Honour” Based Abuse and Forced Marriage, regardless of age, gender or background. They are a source of practical support, offering options and guidance to those who need it.

They also continue to break the silence and raise awareness through various educational and training services.

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Tel: 0800 5999247


Tower Hamlets Solace Advocacy and Support Service (TH SASS)

The abuse is never the victim’s fault and you are not alone. If you are currently experiencing domestic abuse you can access support through the Solace Advocacy and Support Service (SASS).

Tel: 0203 795 5064

They have access to interpreters



Poplar Job Centre

If you have an advisor at Poplar Job Centre and are currently experiencing economic abuse, you can speak to your advisor. They can inform you about domestic abuse easements you may be entitled to, which could ease financial pressure you are under. They also have an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA) on-site who can provide you with one-to-one support, give you safety advice, inform you of your rights, support you to report incidents to police or provide ongoing emotional support, whether you stay in the relationship or not.


13 Dod Street

Tower Hamlets


E14 7EP


Tel: 0800 169 0190

Tower Hamlets Housing Options

If you are at risk of homelessness because of domestic abuse, you can approach Housing Options. Housing Options have an on-site Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA) on-site who can provide you with one-to-one support, which could include making a safety plan, informing you of your housing rights, supporting you to report incidents to police or providing ongoing emotional support.


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VAWG service directory

You can find lots of other useful services on the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) service directory homepage.