A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used. It is an appalling and indefensible practice and is illegal in Great Britain. It is recognised as a form of violence against women and men, domestic/child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights. A marriage must be entered into with the free and full consent of both parties; you should feel you have a choice.
An arranged marriage is not the same as a forced marriage. In an arranged marriage, the families take a leading role in choosing the partner, but both parties are free to choose whether to enter into the marriage or not. The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be physical (including threats, actual physical violence and sexual violence) or emotional and psychological (for example, when someone is made to feel like they’re bringing shame on their family). Financial abuse (taking your wages or not giving you any money) can also be a factor. In some cases people may be taken abroad without knowing that they are to be married. When they arrive in that country, their passport(s)/travel documents may be taken to try to stop them from returning to the UK.
If you or someone you know is being forced into a marriage, help and advice is available.
Call 999 if it is an emergency.
Organisations that can help
Forced Marriage Unit
You can call:
(+44) (0) 207 008 0151 Monday – Friday 9-5pm
(+44) (0) 207 008 1500 Global Response Centre (out of hours)
You can email: firstname.lastname@example.org
As well as the Forced Marriage Unit, there are a number of organisations that can give you confidential advice and information.
To find out more contact the police. Email:
- National Domestic Violence Helpline (24 Hour Freephone) 0808 2000 247
- Childline 0800 1111
- Samaritans 0845 790 9090
- Shelter (for housing advice) 0808 800 4444
- Stonewall Housing (LGBT housing advice) 0207 359 5767
- Men’s Advice Line 0808 801 0327
- Southall Black Sisters 0208 571 9595
- Newham Asian Women’s Project 0208 472 0528
- Ashiana Project (London) 0208 539 0427
- Ashiana (Sheffield) 0114 255 5740
- Karma Nirvana 0800 5999 247
- Henna Foundation (Cardiff) 029 2049 6920
- Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights
- Organisation (IKWRO) 0207 920 6460
- Respond (learning disabilities) 0207 383 0700
- Forward (for African women) 0208 960 4000
- Shakti Women’s Aid (Edinburgh) 0131 475 2399
- Freedom Charity 0845 607 0133
- London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard 0207 837 6768
- Imaan (LGBT Muslim community) 0203 393 5188