Forced marriages

Forced marriage is a marriage conducted without the full consent of both parties and where duress is a factor. This could involve threats of or actual violence or by putting psychological pressure on the victim (e.g. by suggesting that they will “shame” or “dishonor” their family if they do not comply) or by “tricking” the victim (e.g. taking them abroad without explaining the purpose).

Definition and overview 

Forced marriage is a marriage conducted without the full consent of both parties and where duress is a factor. This could involve threats of or actual violence or by putting psychological pressure on the victim (e.g. by suggesting that they will “shame” or “dishonour” their family if they do not comply) or by “tricking” the victim (e.g. taking them abroad without explaining the purpose). Forced marriage is an abuse of human rights and falls within the Government’s definition of domestic violence. It is important to note that a forced marriage is not the same as an arranged marriage (where couple may be matched but where there is still a choice as to whether to marry or not). Victims of forced marriage can be both male and female.

Prevalence

In 2009 the Forced Marriage Unit supported 1682 cases of forced marriage. 86% of these cases involved females and 14% involved males. The Forced Marriage Unit receives a 5,000 calls a year from people who believe themselves to be at risk of forced marriage. 44% of overseas cases dealt with by the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit in 2008 involved minors (10% under 16 years old). 30% of the enquiries dealt with by the Forced Marriage Unit concerned under 18's. 85% of forced marriage victims are UK citizens. (Statistics available from the Forced Marriage Unit).

Although most reported cases in the UK involve victims from South Asian families, it is not specific to particular religious or ethnic groups and can occur in many communities. Some forced marriage take place abroad, others in the UK. Some involve the partner being sent to the UK from abroad.

Reasons for forcing a person into marriage

Forced marriage can never be justified. However, reasons why a parent/family may consider forcing a child/young person into marriage are:
  • To assert control 
  • To fulfill family expectations/”family honour” 
  • To control sexuality e.g. to stop girls being “promiscuous”, to curtail relationships outside of parental wishes , suspecting or knowing the child/young person is gay 
  • Strengthening of family links/”social advancement” 
  • Exchange of property/land 
  • Perceived religious requirements (although it should be noted that forced marriage is not a requirement of particular religions or specified in religious texts) 

Potential indicators that forced marriage may occur/has occurred

  • Family history of elder siblings leaving education early and/or marrying early 
  • Depression, self - harming and suicide 
  • Unreasonable restrictions from the family e.g. not being allowed out or the person always being accompanied
  • Young person expressing concern regarding an upcoming family holiday or expressing concerns that they may need to curtail their education

Full guidance on forced marriage and its impact on children can be found in the statutory guidance The right to choose: multi agency guidance for dealing with forced marriage and in the practice manual Multi-agency practice guidelines: Handling cases of forced marriage. Both of these are available from the Forced Marriage Unit who also offer practice advice to professionals and run a helpline for victims (Tel: 0207 008 0151). Local advice may be obtained from Cleveland Police CHOICE on Tel: 0800 5999365