Forced Marriage

There are around 300 cases of forced marriage reported each year in the UK and many more which go unreported.The majority of cases concern women but some 15% are men who are being forced to marry against their will.


An arranged marriage is NOT a forced marriage because it is consensual. Arranged marriage is a traditional custom whereby the parents of prospective suitors introduce and match-make the couple. It remains the decision of the couple whether they wish to marry and many potential matches may be rejected before finding the right one. Arranged marriage is a practical solution to the problem of dating in many cultures and this can be the basis of a happy and fulfilling matrimony for the couple and their extended families.



It is an infringement upon your human rights to be forced to marry, though it is not a crime in itself. However, many crimes are committed in the course of forcing a marriage to take place. This often includes threatening behaviour, assault, kidnap, abduction (often overseas), imprisonment and, in the worst cases, murder. It is usually parents or other family members that are the perpetrators and they can be prosecuted for these offences. Non-consensual sexual intercourse occurring within a forced marriage is rape, and a victim of forced marriage may be raped repeatedly and become involuntarily pregnant.
Victims may also endure other mental and physical abuses at the hands of their spouse and other relatives.This can induce anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. This can also lead to the onset of other mental health disorders such as eating disorders, self-harm and drug-use. Victims can be terribly isolated by the control their families exert over them which makes it even harder to seek help. It can be very difficult to oppose the will of family and refusing a marriage and leaving the family may lead to social ostracism and harassment from the family and community. Those who do leave often live in fear of their families finding and punishing them. Many victims are justifiably fearful of what their families will do if they disobey, or may feel torn by love and loyalty to their family in spite of their abuse.



Parents may try to justify a forced marriage as being for their child’s own good. This could be for financial security or to achieve their perception of respectability i.e. for family ‘honour’. Some parents are seeking to control sexual behaviour they object to, such as sex before marriage or homosexuality. Forcing marriage to a suitor of their choice can be intended to end a relationship they disapprove of, such as an inter-racial or inter-faith pairing. Some see it as binding families together and preserving cultural traditions.
If they have themselves been subject to a forced marriage at a young age, this may seem normal to them, or they may be bowing to pressure from their own elders. International marriages can be the basis of claims of residence and citizenship. It is important to recognise that forced marriage cannot be justified on religious grounds and every major faith condemns it and stipulates that marriage requires freely-given consent.



The Home Office has a specialist workforce called the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU).They offer advice and assistance to individuals who fear that they are going to be forced into a marriage (in the UK or overseas), or who fear for a friend or relative who may be forced into a marriage. They can also help those who have already been forced to marry and do not want to support their spouse’s visa application to join them in the UK. They can provide information about support networks within the UK, and about legal remedies both in the UK and overseas.
Forced Marriage:
Unit Telephone 020 7008 0135/0230/8706
Emergency Duty Officer (out of office hours) (+44) (0)20 7008 1500



Because of the difficulties of accessing help overseas it is advisable not to leave the UK, but if unavoidable, they should keep with them the details of the nearest British Embassy or High Commission and take note of their passport number and place of issue in case their passport is later confiscated. They may also need currency to assist their escape. They should also set up a back-up plan before they go and the FMU provides advice on what to do:They should leave a copy of their passport, their father’s name and any addresses they may be staying at overseas.
If known, it may also help the FMU to know the potential spouse’s name, the date of the proposed wedding, the name of the potential spouse’s father and addresses of the extended family.They may also ask for details that could be used to verify their identity, such as identifying marks or a secret question, as someone else could be used as an impostor. They can also leave details of any means of contact that can be used such as a secret mobile that will function overseas, or a trusted friend or relative overseas who will help them.They should also set an estimated return date and arrange to get in touch without fail on their return.
If they leave a signed letter explaining that they want the police/social services/third party to act on their behalf if they do not return/make contact by a certain date the FMU can be notified in the event that they do not make contact or return. If the person has dual nationality, they should try to travel using their British passport. Dual nationals may be subject to the other country’s laws and the Geneva Convention allows that country to object to the British Embassy or High Commission repatriating them.However, all possible assistance will be offered and there are caseworkers who travel overseas to rescue victims of forced marriage and escort them home.



DSU Welfare Centre: 0116 257 6307 / 1st Floor Campus Centre Building DMU Counselling
(Student Services): 0116 257 7602 / 1st Floor Gateway House
Reunite International Child Abduction Centre: 0116 255 6234 (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).
Karma Nirvana (Honour Network Helpline):0800 5999247
Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247 / (This service is delivered in partnership with Women’s Aid and Refuge).
Shelter (for housing advice): 0808 800 4444
Brook (sexual health and contraception) DSU Ssh clinic at City Campus (Students’ Union) providing confidential information about sex and relationships as well as free condoms, pregnancy testing and Chlamydia screening.
Leicestershire Action for Mental Health Project (for mental health services in Leicestershire)
Community Legal Advice (a directory of solicitors)


Need more help? Get advice and support from DSU Welfare