News story

Forced marriage to become criminal offence

PM: "forced marriage is wrong, is illegal and will not be tolerated."

Forcing someone to marry will become a criminal offence in England and Wales, the Prime Minister announced today.

The decision to create a specific offence of forced marriage follows a 12 week consultation which took views from the public, victims, charities and frontline agencies. The new law will be accompanied by a range of measures to increase protection and support for victims and a continuing focus on prevention.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

Forced marriage is abhorrent and is little more than slavery. To force anyone into marriage against their will is simply wrong and that is why we have taken decisive action to make it illegal.

I have listened to concerns that criminalisation could force this most distressing issue underground. That is why we have a new comprehensive package to identify possible victims, support those who have suffered first hand and, indeed, prevent criminality wherever possible.

We have spent time with those who work tirelessly to raise and address this issue and I want to send a clear and strong message: forced marriage is wrong, is illegal and will not be tolerated.

Home Secretary Theresa May said:

It is the right of every individual to make their own choices about their relationships and their future. Forced marriage is an appalling practice and by criminalising it we are sending a strong message that it will not be tolerated.

But we know that legislation alone is not enough and we will continue to work across government and with frontline agencies and organisations to support and protect victims.

The UK is already a global leader on work to tackle forced marriage. The unique cross-departmental Forced Marriage Unit runs a helpline providing confidential support and advice to victims and professionals and conducts a nation-wide outreach programme in schools and statutory agencies across the country. This year alone (January to May 2012), the Forced Marriage Unit has provided advice or support to nearly 600 cases. Meanwhile the UK’s embassies and high commissions work to rescue British victims facing forced marriage overseas, and help them return to the UK.

Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said:

Today’s announcement sends a strong signal of our determination to stop this practice, and to continue to support British victims who may be taken abroad to marry against their wishes.

Building on the work being done nationally and by local agencies and charities on the ground, the government today announced that it will invest more than half a million pounds over the next three years. The funding will help deliver further measures including:

  • helping those working in education and safeguarding know how to spot the earliest signs and what action to take;
  • helping victims receive the right support in a joined-up way by expanding the current training for relevant professional agencies - including the CPS, police, judiciary, health agencies, and social services, and identify a Single Point of Contact in every local authority;
  • making the breach of a Forced Marriage Protection Order a criminal offence;
  • raising awareness of the risk of forced marriage abroad through a major summer campaign, highlighting the right to choose and the help available;
  • rescuing those who have already become victims overseas and putting in place a comprehensive support package for victims who have been repatriated; and
  • engaging communities through a nation-wide programme focussed on prevention and education, delivered through regional road shows and debates.

Today the government also signed up to the Council of Europe’s convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (CAHVIO). Signing the convention reflects the government’s continuing commitment to tackling violence against women and girls, including forced marriage, female genital mutilation, stalking, physical and psychological violence and sexual violence.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

Violence against women should never be tolerated in any form. By signing up to this Convention on preventing and combating violence against women we are making clear our commitment to take it very seriously.

All of us, not just the Government, have a responsibility to address violence against women and girls - within our families, in our communities, at our places of work and within society at large.

The UK already has some of the most robust protections against violence towards women in the world and we are continuing to strengthen our approach.

Notes to editors

  1. A summary of responses to the Forced Marriage consultation will be published on the Home Office website on Friday 8 June
  2. The Forced Marriage Unit works with embassy staff to rescue British nationals who may have been forced into a marriage overseas. In the UK, the FMU assists actual and potential victims of forced marriage, as well as professionals working in the social, educational and health sectors. For more information, see: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/when-things-go-wrong/forced-marriage/
  3. Today’s announcements form part of a package of work undertaken by the Government as part of its ‘Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls Action Plan’. Details of the action plan can be found at:http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/crime/violence-against-women-girls/
  4. A forced marriage is one in which one or both spouses do not (or, in the case of some vulnerable adults, cannot) consent to the marriage but are coerced into it. It is not an arranged marriage. In an arranged marriage both parties have consented to the union but can still refuse to marry if they choose to.
  5. On Tuesday 29 May the Foreign Secretary announced a UK initiative on preventing sexual violence in conflict. For more information, see:
    http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=News&id=769621682
    http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=News&id=770450382
  6. Forced Marriage Unit Statistics January to May 2012 * 594 cases where the FMU has given advice or support related to a possible forced marriage. * 14% of calls involved victims bellow 15 years old, 31% involved victims aged 16-17, 35% involved victims aged 18-21, 12% involved victims aged 22-25, 5% involved victims aged 26-30, 2% involved victims aged 31-40, 1% involved victims aged 41-50, 0% involved victims aged 51-60 and 0% victims over 61 years. * 87% involved female victims and 13% involved male victims. * Countries of Origin: Pakistan (46%), Bangladesh (9.2%), UK (8.7%), India (7.2%), Afghanistan (2.7%), Turkey (1.5), Sri Lanka (1.4%), Iraq (1.2%), Egypt (1.0%), Nigeria (1.0%). Other countries where we had cases included Morocco, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, The Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mauritius, UAE, Zimbabwe. Where the origin was unknown (9.4%). * Within the UK the geographical distribution of instances was as follows: London (20.9%), West Midlands (16.7%), South East (10.4%), North West (5.1%), Yorkshire & Humberside (5.3%), South West (2.6%), East Midlands (2.2%), Scotland (1.9%), Wales (1.4%), North East (1.4%), East of England (1.2%), Northern Ireland (0.2%) and unknown (31%). * 25 instances involving those with disabilities (23 with learning disabilities, two with physical disabilities and two with both) were brought to the FMU’s attention. * Seven instances involved victims who identified as LGBT.
  7. Previous Forced Marriage Unit Statistics (January to December 2011) * 1468 cases where the FMU has given advice or support related to a possible forced marriage. * Where the age was known:
    • the oldest victim was 87 and the youngest was five;
    • 10% of calls involved victims below 15 years old;
    • 19% involved victims aged 16-17;
    • 27% involved victims aged 18-21;
    • 17% involved victims aged 22-25;
    • 14% involved victims aged 26-30;
    • 8% involved victims aged 31-40;
    • 3% involved victims aged 41-50;
    • 1% involved victims aged 51-60; and
    • 1% involved victims over 61 years.
      • 78% involved female victims and 22% involved male victims.
      • Within the UK the geographical distribution of instances was as follows:
    • London (18.9%);
    • West Midlands (13.4%);
    • North West (12.7%);
    • Yorkshire & Humberside (10.3%);
    • South East (8.9%);
    • East of England (3.7%);
    • East Midlands (3.4%);
    • Scotland (2.3%);
    • South West (1.4%);
    • Wales (1.3%);
    • North East (1.0%);
    • Northern Ireland (0%); and
    • unknown areas (22.6%).
      • 66 instances (4.5%) involving those with disabilities (56 with learning disabilities, eight with physical disabilities and two with both) were brought to the FMU’s attention.
      • 10 instances (0.7%) involved victims who identified as LGBT.

External site: Forced Marriage Unit

Help us improve GOV.UK

Please don't include any personal or financial information, for example your National Insurance or credit card numbers.