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Forced marriage

A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities or reduced capacity, cannot) consent to the marriage as they are pressurised, or abuse is used, to force them to do so.

There is a clear distinction between an arranged and a forced marriage. In an arranged marriage, the families of both spouses take a leading role in arranging the marriage but the choice of whether or not to accept the marriage remains with the prospective spouses. An arranged marriage should only be considered for someone who is over the age of 16 and has full mental capacity to make the decision. If they do not have full mental capacity, it is a forced marriage.

A Forced Marriage is recognised in the UK as a form of domestic or child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights. 

The pressure put on people to marry may be: 

  • Physical: for example, threats, physical violence or sexual violence.
  • Emotional and psychological: for example, making someone feel like they are bringing ‘shame’ on their family.
  • Financial abuse: for example, taking someone’s wages, keeping financial assets within the family, withdrawing financial support, financial agreements between various members may be a factor.

Coercion is likely to be used to one or both spouses, by family members, friends and the wider community. This may include; threats of violence, being held against their will, emotional threats and other forms of coercion and harassment, such as not being allowed to go anywhere without being accompanied by someone.

Forced marriage is not specific to any particular country, or culture. The majority of cases of forced marriage encountered in the UK involve South Asian families, but this is due to the size of the South Asian population in the UK, rather than this being an issue specific to this community. There are also cases involving families from Iraq, Kurdistan, East Asia, The Middle East, Eastern Europe, Africa and from Czech Roma Communities. 

Forced marriage is not supported by any religion. This includes Islam, Sikhism, Christianity and Hinduism.

Legislation +

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 made it a criminal offence in England, Wales and Scotland 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 are pressured to or not).

Forced Marriage Protection Orders

A Forced Marriage Protection Order is unique to each case and contains legally binding conditions and directions that change the behaviour of a person or persons trying to force someone into marriage. The aim of the order is to protect the person who has been, or is being, forced into marriage. The court can make an order in an emergency so that protection is in place straightaway.

A Forced Marriage Protection Order can help if the person is:

  • being forced into marriage; or
  • already in a forced marriage.

Applications for Forced Marriage Protection Orders can be made at the same time as a police investigation or other criminal proceedings. Someone who disobeys a court order can be sent to prison for up to two years for contempt of court; but breach of a Forced Marriage Protection Order is also a criminal offence with a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment.

For more information on Forced Marriage Protection orders click here

Practice Guidance +

The “One Chance” rule

All practitioners working with victims of forced marriage need to be aware of the ‘’one chance’’ rule. That is, they may only have one chance to speak to a potential victim and may only have one chance to save a life. This means that all practitioners working within statutory agencies need to be aware of their responsibilities and obligations when they become aware of potential forced marriage cases/so-called ‘honour’ based violence/abuse. If the victim is allowed to walk out of the door without support being offered, that one chance might be wasted.

In Warrington we are signed up to Pan Cheshire Harmful Practices Strategy

Pan Cheshire Harmful Practices Strategy

Forced marriage is a safeguarding issue; it is a form of child abuse, domestic abuse and a breach of human rights. It can affect men as well as women, some may have disabilities and others may be spouses from overseas. It is therefore important to safeguard any child, young person or adult who may be, or has been subjected to a forced marriage.

National guidance – the Forced Marriage Unit +

Multi-agency practice guidelines: handling cases of forced marriage, which provides step-by-step advice for frontline workers, including health professionals, educational staff, police, children’s social care, adult social services and local authority housing

Multi-agency statutory guidance for dealing with forced marriage, which provides guidance for all persons and bodies who exercise public functions in relation to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and vulnerable adults

Multi-agency practice guidelines for Forced Marriage and learning disabilities, which provides guidance and advise to frontline workers supporting children and adults with learning disabilities.

‘Right to choose’ campaign

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) developed this short film aimed at deterring potential forced marriage perpetrators. The film highlights the devastating impact forced marriage can have on victims and their families, and signposts victims and highlights where victims can turn to sources of further support.

Right to choose: consequences of forced marriage

Consequences of forced marriage

Additional sources of information +

National Support Agencies

This section gives details of national support agencies including addresses, telephone numbers and an explanation of the service. There are also excellent regional organisations that can help victims of forced marriage and the contact details for many of these can be found on the FMU website at www.gov.uk/forced-marriage

Ann Craft Trust

Offers advice to professionals, parents, carers and family members on issues relating to the protection of vulnerable children and adults. You can contact them about general issues but they are also happy to give advice about specific cases. If they are unable to answer your question, they will try to find you the most appropriate person to talk to about your concerns.

0115 951 5400



Offers safe temporary accommodation for South Asian women and children fleeing domestic violence, including forced marriage. Asha also shares advice on benefits, housing and legal issues for women and offers training programmes.

Find out more at www.ashaforcedmarriage.org.uk/

Ashiana Network (London)

Offers emotional and practical help, as well as accommodation, for women and children who are escaping violence. They also provide two refuges specifically for South Asian, Turkish and Iranian women between the ages of 16-30 at risk of forced marriage.

0208 539 0427


Child Line

This service is for any child or young person.

0800 1111


Citizens Advice Bureau

The Citizens Advice Bureau offers free, confidential and impartial information and advice on a wide range of subjects including consumer rights, debt, benefits, housing, employment, immigration, family and personal matters. For a list of branches, see “Citizens Advice Bureau” in the telephone directory.

0844 111 444


Freedom Charity

Freedom Charity raises awareness and prevent child abuse to keep children safe. Their aim is to empower young people to feel they have the tools and confidence to support each other and have practical ways in which they can help their best friend around the issues of family relationships which can lead to early and forced marriage and dishonour based violence.

0845 6070133 (24 hour helpline)

Text “4freedom” 88802 (24 hour text line)

Free app available online to download


Airport Travel Care

This service ensures that young people are able to leave the airport and arrive at their destination safely and without delay. Victims of forced marriage may require assistance when they arrive and Travel Care can be contacted for advice. The service is available from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, and 9am to 4pm Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays.


Manchester Airport Special Assistance | Manchester Airport Guide (manchester-airport-guide.co.uk)


Halo Project

The Halo Project is based in the North East of England; supporting victims of honour based violence and forced marriages by providing appropriate advice and support to victims. The programme of work with key partners will also provide required interventions and advice necessary for the protection and safety of victims.

01642 683045


Henna Foundation

Henna Foundation operates a “one stop” service that works to meet and advance the needs, concerns and aspirations of Asian and Muslim children and families.

02920 496 920



Imkaan is the national Black, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BMER) charity dedicated to addressing violence against women and girls


Include Me Too

Work with disabled parents and carers.


Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation

Provides advice and support to Middle Eastern women and girls facing honour based violence, domestic abuse, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

0207 920 6460


JAN Trust

Raises awareness and prevent abuse and violence against women and girls including honour based violence, domestic abuse, forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Specialist service for Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic, Refugee (BAMER) and Muslim women.

0208 889 9433


Judith Trust

Focuses its work on the problems faced by people who have both a learning disability and mental ill-health.

020 7266 1073


Karma Nirvana

An organisation that provides emotional and practical support and advice for both male and female victims and survivors of forced marriage and/or honour based violence and abuse. It provides advice and support to potential victims, victims in crisis and professional agencies. It delivers this service through the Honour Network helpline, a confidential helpline.

0800 5999 247


Language line

This service can provide an interpreter on the telephone immediately in 100 different languages, 24 hours a day. This is not a free service.

020 7520 1430


National Domestic Violence Helpline

(24 hour Freephone) run in partnership with Women’s Aid and Refuge, is a national service for women experiencing domestic violence, their family, friends, colleagues and others calling on their behalf. Call the Helpline on 0808 2000 247, email: helpline@womensaid.org.uk or visit the website www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/

Palm Cove Society

Palm Cove Society provides supported accommodation for single homeless refugees, eligible destitute asylum seekers or migrants and unaccompanied asylum seeker children leaving care. They can also accommodate any of the aforementioned women fleeing domestic violence.

0113 230 2271

PALM COVE SOCIETY - A Bit About Us & What We Do

Rape Crisis

Rape Crisis centres provide crucial crisis and long term specialised counselling, support and independent advocacy for all women and girls of all ages who have experienced any form of sexual violence both recently and/or in the past; centres are community based and independent of government and the criminal justice system.

0808 802 9999



Respond provides a range of services to both victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse who have learning disabilities and those who have been affected by other trauma. They also offer support and training to families, carers and professionals.

0808 808 0700



Reunite is the leading charity specialising in international parental child abduction. It operates a 24- hour advice line providing advice, support and information to parents, family members and guardians who have had a child abducted or who fear abduction. It supports and informs parents who have abducted their children and assists with international contact issues. Their advice is impartial and confidential to either or both parties involved in an international parental child abduction case – it also provides information and support on the issue of forced marriage.

0116 255 6234 (advice line)


Rights of Women

Rights of Women is a women’s voluntary organisation committed to informing, educating and empowering women concerning their legal rights.


Roshni Asian Women’s Aid

Provides refuge for south Asian women and children experiencing domestic violence

0115 924 2864

www.womensaid.org.uk search for Roshni


A 24-hour helpline for any person in emotional distress

08457 909090


Sharan Project

Provides confidential advice, befriending service and practical support for South Asian Women towards leading successful independent living.

0844 504 3231


Training +

The Forced Marriage online learning tool can be found here

The online course has been developed with the Forced Marriage Unit of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office. It aims to raise awareness, challenge perceptions and inform you of the correct actions to take should you suspect someone is at risk.

After completing this training you will be able to:

  • recognise the warning signs of forced marriage
  • take the right actions to help protect the potential victim
  • co-operate effectively with other agencies.