Select your location for up-to-date news and information in your local area My Area
Girl with help written on her hand

Forced Marriage: Just The Facts

Forced marriage is a crime in Great Britain.

What is a forced marriage?

A forced marriage is where one or both people are married under pressure and/or abuse from others.

Any person may be forced into a marriage, including people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and religions.

In the UK, forced marriage is seen to be a form of violence against men and women, and is classed as domestic abuse and child abuse, which violates an individual’s human rights.

Forced marriage is illegal in the UK, and that includes taking someone overseas and forcing them to marry, whether the marriage takes place or not, and marrying someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage.

The pressure that is put on people to marry can take different forms:

  • Physical: including threats, actual physical violence and sexual violence
  • Emotional and psychological: for example, when someone is made to feel like they’re bringing shame on their family
  • Financial abuse: including taking away their wages or not giving them any money

Is forced marriage different to arranged marriage?

An arranged marriage is NOT the same as a forced marriage.

In an arranged marriage, both parties consent and are free to choose whether they enter a marriage or not, with parents respecting their wishes.

Why do forced marriages happen?

Forced marriages can happen for a number of reasons, including:

  • The family doesn’t approve of their child’s sexuality
  • The family doesn’t approve of their child’s existing relationship or don’t want them to have a relationship
  • To help family claims for citizenship or residency
  • To maintain a family’s reputation or honour
  • The family think it’s important as part of their culture or religion
  • Financial gain or to make sure the family’s wealth stays within the family
  • The family feel pressured by other family members to follow traditions
  • To honour a long standing family commitment
  • To control unwanted behaviour
  • To reduce the stigma of a disability

This list of reasons is not exhaustive and there are many other reasons why children and other individuals are forced into marriage. None of these reasons are ok and no one should be forced into marrying someone.

Who to contact if you are at risk

Raising a concern can be a scary thing to do, but there are ways that you can be protected. School holidays are often a common time for forced marriages to take place, as an individual may believe they are going on a holiday and are not aware of what is going to happen when they are taken out of the country.

If you or anyone you know think they are at risk of being forced into a marriage, it’s important that you tell a trusted adult such as a teacher, school nurse or GP as soon as possible.

If you can’t talk to a trusted adult, you can still access support for your concerns, via ChatHealth, Childline, or your local police on 101. In an emergency, you must call the police on 999.

There are a number of services and charities that you can access for confidential support, help and advice if you have any concerns:

The Forced Marriage Unit: Offers support to any individual within the UK regardless of nationality. They also provide support and advice to professionals.

0207 008 0151: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm


British Transport Police: you can report concerns to the transport police if it is not an emergency by calling 0800 405 040 or texting 61016

The Freedom Charity: fights to stop forced marriage and helps to protect young people from harm.

24 hour help line: 0845 607 0133

Text 4freedom to 88802

Freedom app available in the app store

Facebook- The Freedom Charity

Twitter- The Freedom Charity

Halo Project: a charity helping victims of honour based violence, forced marriage and FGM.

01642 683045 or 0808 1788 424

Facebook- Halo Project

Twitter- Halo Project

Karma Nirvana: a charity helping victims of honour based violence, forced marriage, and offers advice and support.

0800 599 9247- Monday to Friday 9am- 5pm

Facebook- Karma Nirvana

Twitter- Karma Nirvana

REMEMBER in an emergency, call 999

What to do if you are traveling abroad and are worried about forced marriage

If you are worried that a family member or someone else is taking you out of the country where you will be forced into marriage it is important that you seek help.

You can contact services like Childline or the Forced Marriage Unit for advice if you are concerned. There are a number of things that can be done to help protect you.

Leave as many details with a trusted friend, adult or the Forced Marriage Unit as possible including:

  • Name and date of birth as shown on passport
  • Passport number (with date and place of issue)
  • Overseas contact details and address of where you’ll be staying
  • Number of secret mobile taken overseas
  • Address and telephone number (including mobile) in the UK
  • A recent photograph
  • Contact details of a trusted third party in the UK
  • Parents’ names and address(es)
  • Departure and expected return date (copies of tickets if possible)
  • Names of those you are travelling with
  • Names of family members remaining in the UK
  • Any other useful information such as any secret code words
  • Apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order- this is a legal document that can stop you being taken out of the country and can also help to bring you back to the UK if you have been taken out of the country
  • Speak to security staff or police at the airport that you are traveling from. Many airport bathrooms have posters in the toilets offering help and support with advice on what to do. Placing a metal spoon in your underwear can also alert airport staff, however this is not always recommended if you’re under the age of 17 as an adult will have to advocate for you.
  • Have contact information for the forced marriage unit of the British Embassy in case you need help whilst abroad.


How to get help

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your school nurse.

Cross Hatch

Find help in your local area

Find help in your local area

Find out what services are available to you in your area. Remember your school nurse is always there to give you confidential help and support.

Find help in your local area