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How to Stop a Forced Marriage

Help and support is available for victims of a forced marriage in the United Kingdom. Find out what steps you can take if you are being forced into getting married and how to leave a forced marriage.

What is Forced Marriage?

According to citizenship in the United Kingdom you have a right to choose who you marry. The law also allows you to choose when to get married and whether you decide to marry anyone at all.

The definition of forced marriage ‘against your will’ could include (either):

  • Suffering emotional and psychological pressure (e.g. made to feel you bring shame on your family).
  • Physical pressure to marry someone (e.g. abuse, sexual violence, threats).

Note: Statistics released by the Crown Prosecution Service suggest there could be up to 10,000 forced marriages taking place in the United Kingdom every year.

Forced Marriage is a Crime in the UK

Forcing someone to marry against their will became a criminal offence from the 16th of June 2014 in England and Wales. The same legislation applies to any UK nationals who are at risk of becoming a victim of a forced marriage overseas.

Now that forced marriage is illegal in England and Wales the law also extends to:

  • Marrying a person who lacks a mental capacity to give consent to the marriage (whether pressured or not).
  • Taking a person or persons overseas to force them to marry (even if the forced marriage does not actually take place).

Note: The penalty for forcing someone to marry can result in a prison sentence of up to seven (7) years.

Forced Marriage Unit (FMU)

The Forced Marriage Unit was set up in January 2005. The FMU operates inside the United Kingdom and overseas. They provide consular assistance to British nationals (and dual nationals).

You can contact the Forced Marriage Unit by phone or by email. They can help you stop a forced marriage or give advice about leaving a marriage you got forced into.

Forced Marriage Unit
Mail: [email protected]
Telephone: 020 7008 0151
Overseas: +44 (0)20 7008 0151
Monday to Friday: 9am to 5pm
Out of hours: 020 7008 1500 (Global Response Centre)
How much does a phone call cost per minute?.

The FMU have trained professionals who can give free advice on dealing with forced marriages, including:

  • Helping you find a safe place to stay.
  • Stop a United Kingdom visa if you get forced to sponsor someone.

Note: You should contact the police if it is an emergency by calling 999

Forced Marriage Protection Order

You can apply for a forced marriage protection order from the courts. The protection order would be unique to protect your individual circumstances. So, the court might order the abuser to reveal your location or hand over your passport – for example.

Note: The court can issue an emergency order to protect you with immediate effect. Anyone who disobeys a forced marriage protection order can get a prison sentence up to five (5) years.

Forced Marriage Abroad

If you believe you will get taken abroad to get married against your will you should contact the FMU. If you are already overseas you can contact the nearest British embassy instead.

If You Know Someone is at Risk

Forced Marriage Law in the United KingdomThe FMU can also help if you know someone got taken overseas and you think they will get forced into marriage. Give FMU as much information as you can, such as:

  • Which country you think the person has gone to.
  • When did you last hear from the person.
  • When you think they will return to the United Kingdom.

The Forced Marriage Unit will contact the most appropriate embassy.

Note: The embassy will try to contact the person who has been taken abroad for a forced marriage. They can also help to get them back to the UK if they are a British national and that is what they want to do.

Support for Victims of Forced Marriages

The guide titled ‘Forced Marriage: a survivors handbook‘ has further information about being made to feel captive in a marriage. You can also find organisations who provide expert help and advice.

The FCO and Home Office provide practice guidelines for professionals who are advise, protect, and support the victims. Separate guidelines on support for victims of forced marriage in Scotland is also available.

Forced Marriage Law in the United Kingdom