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Forced Marriage

This page provides advice to practitioners and managers to help them identify and deal with safeguarding those at risk of forced marriage. 


1. Definition

1.1 A forced marriage is one in which one or both spouses do not (or, in the case of some adults or young people with learning or physical disabilities or mental incapacity, cannot) consent to the marriage Handling Cases of Forced Marriage.

This force 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).

 

2. Overview

2.1 Forced marriage is a criminal offence in England and Wales. 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’re pressured to or not)

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.

2.2 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 fulfil 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)

 

3. Prevalance

3.1 In 2019 the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) supported 1355 victims of forced marriage. Forced marriage is not specific to one country of culture and included cases relating to over 60 different countries Forced Marriage statistics 2019.

 

4. Gender of Victims

In 2019, 1,355 cases (75%) involved female victims and 262 (19%) involved male victims; in the remaining cases the gender of the victim was unknown.

This demonstrates that forced marriage is a crime which disproportionately affects women, but that it is also not an issue which only women face; men can also be forced into marriage.

 

5. Age of Victim

Information from the FMU 2019 would indicate that 34% of all cases dealt with within the UK are under 18 years of age.

 

6. UK regions where victims live

The North East region has relatively low numbers compared to regions such as London, however the number of victims has remained constant over recent years.

 

7. 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.

 

8. Forced Marriage Protection Order

8.1 A Forced Marriage Protection Order can help if someone is:  being forced into marriage; or already in a forced marriage.

8.2 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.

8.3 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. The court can: Make a Forced Marriage Protection Order to protect a person facing forced marriage or who has been forced into marriage.

8.4 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.

 

9. Making a Referral

9.1 Cases of forced marriage can involve complex and sensitive issues that will require a multi-agency approach. For victims under the age of 18 years old a referral should be made to Children's Social Care - see Making Referrals to Children's Social Care Procedure. The Forced Marriage Unit can also be contacted for advice and help in making the referral.

9.2 Children’s Social Care services may approach the police and ask for their assistance in undertaking a joint investigation. A joint approach may be particularly useful where it is thought that a child or young person is at immediate risk of forced marriage.

 

Further Guidance

Further information about forced marriage and the work of the FMU

Handling Cases of Forced Marriage

Forced Marriage statistics 2019

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