Forced marriage

Forced marriage is a human rights abuse and falls within the definition of domestic abuse. A forced marriage is not the same thing as an arranged marriage. In an arranged marriage the families of both spouses take a leading role in arranging the marriage, but the choice of whether or not to accept the arrangement remains with the couple.

Definition, Forced Marriage (FM): A marriage conducted without the valid consent of one or both parties where duress is a factor. Duress may take the form of emotional, financial, physical and sexual threats and abuse. Forced marriage is also viewed by some as falling into the definition of ‘honour’-based violence. Early or child marriage refers to any marriage of a child younger than 18 years old. The UN recognises it as a forced marriage because minors are deemed incapable of giving informed consent. Girls are the majority of the victims and hence are disproportionately affected.

“Marriage should be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.” Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 16 (2)

Forced marriage occurs within many cultures and classes. A person at risk of a forced marriage may suffer a range of abuses including emotional and physical abuse, unlawful imprisonment, abduction, rape, forced pregnancy or enforced abortion.

Both women and men may be victims of forced marriage. Currently around 250 cases per year are reported in the UK, although it is suspected that many more take place that are unreported. For help with a forced marriage planned to take place in the UK, contact the police on 101. In an emergency call 999.

For help with a forced marriage due to take place outside of the UK, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Community Liaison Unit on 0207 008 0151, (office hours 9-5.30) or out of office hours in an emergency 0207 008 1500 or email

You can also speak to the National Domestic Violence Helpline or local Greater Manchester Women’s Domestic Abuse Helpline. Their contact numbers are at the side of this page.

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