Forced marriage

A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used. It is an appalling and indefensible practice and is illegal in Great Britain. It is recognised as a form of violence against women and men, domestic/child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights. A marriage must be entered into with the free and full consent of both parties; you should feel you have a choice.

An arranged marriage is not the same as a forced marriage. In an arranged marriage, the families take a leading role in choosing the partner, but both parties are free to choose whether to enter into the marriage or not. The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be physical (including threats, actual physical violence and sexual violence) or emotional and psychological (for example, when someone is made to feel like they’re bringing shame on their family). Financial abuse (taking your wages or not giving you any money) can also be a factor. In some cases people may be taken abroad without knowing that they are to be married. When they arrive in that country, their passport(s)/travel documents may be taken to try to stop them from returning to the UK.

If you or someone you know is being forced into a marriage, help and advice is available.

Organisations that can help

Forced Marriage Unit

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office unit which leads on the government’s forced marriage policy, outreach and casework. It operates both inside the UK (where support is provided to any individual) and overseas (where consular assistance is provided to British nationals, including dual nationals).

The FMU operates a public helpline to provide advice and support to victims of forced marriage as well as to professionals dealing with cases. The assistance provided ranges from safety advice, through to helping a forced marriage victim prevent their unwanted spouse moving to the UK (‘reluctant sponsor’ cases). In extreme circumstances the FMU will assist with rescues of victims held against their will overseas.

You can call:

(+44) (0) 207 008 0151 - Monday – Friday 9-5pm
(+44) (0) 207 008 1500 - Out of hours


As well as the Forced Marriage Unit, there are a number of organisations that can give you confidential advice and information.

Karma Nirvana

Helpline supporting victims of honour-based abuse & forced marriage

Telephone: 0800 5999 247

Halo Project

The Halo Project Charity is a national charity that aims to respond to cases of Forced Marriage across the UK. Halo provides specialist support to victims of forced marriages and those suffering domestic abuse in the name of honour.

Telephone: 01642 683 045

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