Forced marriage

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vawgWhat is a forced marriage?

A forced marriage is where one (or both) of the spouses does not want to get married and is forced or coerced into it. In cases where someone has disabilities, they may not have the capacity to consent to marry. Coercion can include physical, psychological, emotional, sexual and financial pressures and abuse.

Forced marriage is not condoned by any of the major religions (consent is a prerequisite for marriage in all Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Jewish marriages) and is a violation of human rights as well as a form of domestic violence.

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Is a forced marriage the same as an arranged marriage?

No, an arranged marriage is different from a forced marriage. In an arranged marriage the family of both spouses are involved in finding the partners and arranging the marriage but the spouses still have a choice about whether the marriage goes ahead.

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Does forced marriage only happen in South Asian families?

Whilst forced marriage is sometimes seen as exclusively an issue for Asian communities, there are large numbers of young people being forced to marry in other communities including gypsy/travellers, Middle Eastern, African, South American and Eastern European communities.

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Why are people forced into marriage?

Forced marriage is recognised as a form of domestic violenceit is a form of exerting power and control over a person’s choices. There are strong links between forced marriage and so-called ‘honour-based’ violence whereby a person who does not consent is seen to be dishonouring or shaming the family.

There are a wide range of reasons given by parents and the wider family and community for forcing young people into marriages. Parents say that they are protecting their cultural heritage, building stronger family links or religious traditions.

Other major reasons include: controlling young people’s sexuality, especially young women who perceived to be promiscuous or young people who are lesbian or gay; ensuring that land or property remains within the family or gaining financially; preventing seemingly ‘unsuitable’ relationships (outside of caste, religion or culture) and provision of long-term care for a child who has a disability (learning or physical).

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Are you at risk of a 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 an arranged 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?
  • Are you feeling depressed, isolated, guilty and ashamed?
  • Do you feel like wanting to hurt yourself, have difficulty eating and sleeping, not looking after yourself, using drugs or alcohol to help you cope?

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Is forced marriage a criminal offence?

Yes, on June 16, 2014, the law on forced marriage came into effect and it is now a criminal offence to force someone to marry. This includes:

  • taking someone overseas to force them to marry (whether or not the forced marriage takes place)
  • marrying someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage (whether they’re pressured to or not)
  • breaching a forced marriage protection order is also a criminal offence.

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How can you safely help someone who is being forced to marry?

  • Encourage them to report to the police and to the Forced Marriage Unit to help them to be safe
  • If they are worried about being taken overseas, help them to make a copy of their passport and keep it in a safe place
  • Speak to the specialist organisations in the contacts section
  • Help them to make a safety plan  to keep themselves safe

Supporting resources

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Support services

If you are in immediate risk call 999 or 112 (from a mobile) for the Police.

 Please see our directory of support services, who are here help victims or survivors of abuse.

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