Forced marriage resource pack

Updated 12 May 2023


This resource pack was developed following a commitment in the Government’s Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy (VAWG), published in July 2021. The Strategy recognised that more could be done to provide frontline professionals, including local authorities, the police, schools, healthcare services and others, with additional resources on forced marriage.

The resource pack has been designed to highlight examples of best practice and to help ensure that effective support is available to victims of forced marriage.

This pack includes:

  • case studies of people who have experienced forced marriage;
  • resources produced by both statutory and non-statutory organisations; and
  • links to support organisations and helplines which can help people who may be at risk of forced marriage

The pack does not replace the Government’s published statutory guidance and non-statutory guidelines on forced marriage, which is the primary source of advice for professionals.

This document contains a number of case studies. Some are real examples, in which case they are anonymised. In other cases, they represent features of different cases dealt with by the Forced Marriage Unit, amalgamated to form a common example.


External links were selected, reviewed and identified as effective practice on forced marriage when this resource was published. However, the Home Office is not responsible for the content of external websites. We do not maintain or update them, we cannot change them, and they may be changed without our knowledge. Other information on forced marriage is available and the content of this document is not exhaustive.

If you have documents or material you would like to be considered for inclusion in this resource, please email


Some of the content in the links included in this resource pack contains accounts which readers may find distressing.


Forced marriage is illegal in the UK. It takes place worldwide throughout different communities, and affects both women and men. The drivers of forced marriage are complex and may include:


  • Protecting “family honour” (referred to in some communities as “izzat”, “ghairat”, “namus” or “sharam”)
  • Responding to peer group and/or family pressure
  • Attempting to strengthen family ties and links
  • Longstanding family commitments
  • Ensuring care for a child or an adult with special needs when parents and existing carers are unable to fulfil that role
  • Protecting perceived cultural and religious ideals
  • Controlling “unwanted” behaviour, e.g. alcohol use, drug use or wearing make-up
  • Preventing “unsuitable” relationships, e.g. outside ethnic, cultural, religious or socioeconomic group


  • Controlling “unwanted” sexuality (particularly on the part of women), perceived promiscuity, or being lesbian, gay or bisexual.


  • Achieving financial gain
  • Ensuring land, property and wealth remains within the family


  • Assisting claims for UK residence and citizenship.

This list is not exhaustive and further information about the drivers of forced marriage can be found in the Government’s guidance on forced marriage, chapter 2.

The United Nations states that child and forced marriage is a human rights violation and a harmful practice that disproportionately affects women and girls globally, preventing them from living their lives free from all forms of violence.


The Government publishes yearly statistics on the number of cases reported to the joint Home Office and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s Forced Marriage Unit through its public helpline and email inbox.

What is forced marriage?

Any person may be forced into marriage – this includes people of all ages, sexes, ethnicities and religions. Forced marriage can affect a whole range of different communities in the UK.

A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities or reduced capacity, cannot) consent to the marriage as they are pressurised, or abuse is used, to force them to do so. Forced marriage is illegal in the UK. It is recognised as a form of domestic or child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.

The pressure put on a person to marry can take different forms:

  • physical pressure might take the form of threats or violence (including sexual violence);
  • emotional or psychological pressure might take the form of making someone feel they are bringing shame on their family, making them believe that those close to them may become vulnerable to illness if they do not marry, or denying them freedom or money unless they agree to the marriage.

Since 27 February 2023, with the coming into force of the provisions of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022, it has been an offence under forced marriage legislation in England and Wales to do anything intended to cause a child to marry before they turn 18, without the need to prove that a form of coercion was used. The forced marriage offence, as expanded, will continue to include ceremonies of marriage which are not legally binding, for example in community or traditional settings. That same Act also provides that a 16 or 17 year old in England or Wales can no longer marry legally, even with parental consent.

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.

For consent to exist, both parties must fully and freely agree to the marriage and there must be no mistake as to the nature of the union, and no force must be used upon either party to enter into the union.

Legally, people with certain learning disabilities or severe mental health conditions are not able to consent to marriage, even if they feel the marriage is what they want.

What is an arranged marriage?

When it comes to the marriage of an adult, an arranged marriage is not the same as a forced marriage. In an arranged marriage, the families take a leading role in choosing the marriage partner, but both individuals are free to choose whether they want to enter into the marriage.

This distinction between an arranged marriage and a forced marriage used to apply to the marriage of a child too, but since the coming into force on 27 February 2023 of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022, which provides that any conduct done to cause someone to marry before they turn 18 is a forced marriage, it no longer does. What would be regarded as arranging a marriage of an adult would, if done in relation to a child, be regarded as forcing the child to marry.

If an individual initially consents to marry, later changes their mind and is still required to go ahead with the marriage, this is a forced marriage too.

Case study

See Shamsa’s story - a survivor of FGM, forced marriage, domestic violence and “honour-based” abuse.


Criminal offences

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (the 2014 Act) made it a criminal offence in England, Wales and Scotland to force someone to marry. (It is a criminal offence in Northern Ireland under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015.)

This includes:

  • taking someone overseas to force them to marry (whether or not the forced marriage takes place); and
  • causing someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage to enter into a marriage (whether or not coercion is used)

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 amended the 2014 Act to provide that it is an offence under the law of England and Wales for a person to cause a child under the age of 18 to enter a marriage, even if coercion is not used and whether or not any marriage is carried out in England and Wales.

The offence of forced marriage applies to any religious or civil ceremony of marriage, whether it is legally recognised or not.

Forcing someone to marry can result in a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

Forced Marriage Protection Orders

A Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) can be issued under section 63A of the Family Law Act 1996. FMPOs can help safeguard victims, or potential victims, of forced marriage. They can help victims who are:

  • being forced into marriage
  • already in a forced marriage

The person who requires protection or a local authority social services department may apply directly to the Family Court for a FMPO. All other parties (such as the police) must apply to the court for permission to make a FMPO application.

A FMPO 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 a marriage. 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.

FMPOs are civil law orders and generally require an application to the Family Court. Further guidance on applying for an FMPO is available from the Ministry of Justice.

Failure to comply with the requirements of an FMPO is called a breach of the order and is a criminal offence which could result in up to five years in prison.

Information about the numbers of FMPOs applied for and issued, including the types of parties who apply for them and the age of the person to be protected (i.e. whether they are under or over the age of 17), can be found within the Family Justice Quarterly Statistics.


In 2017, the Government introduced lifelong anonymity for victims of forced marriage to encourage more victims of this hidden crime to come forward.

One chance rule

All professionals providing services to victims of forced marriage and ‘honour’-based abuse need to be aware of the “one chance” rule. That is, they may only have one chance to speak to a potential victim, and that chance may be the only opportunity to save a life. All professionals working within statutory agencies need to be aware of their responsibilities and obligations when they encounter forced marriage cases. If the victim is allowed to walk out of the door without support being offered, that one chance might be lost.

Camille’s story

“I was 16 when my dad took me to Afghanistan. He told me it was to visit my grandfather who was sick but when we got there it was all about marriage. I was told straight away that I was to marry my cousin, Samir, in two weeks’ time; he was my uncle’s eldest son and 7 years older than me. I felt sick and told my dad that I was too young. I wanted to go home, back to school and my friends but he said that it had been decided years ago, there was no negotiating”

Camille sent a message via WhatsApp to her friend to say what was happening and she told her teacher. The teacher called the Forced Marriage Unit, who referred the case to social services. They arranged for a FMPO to be served on her mother in England to ensure Camille’s safe return to the UK. Camille lived with her parents with the FMPO in place.

Forced Marriage Unit

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is a joint Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and Home Office unit which provides advice and support on forced marriage to professionals, victims and those at risk. It can support individuals inside the UK (where support is available to any individual) and overseas (where consular assistance can be provided to British Nationals, including dual nationals).

The FMU operates a public helpline to provide advice and support to:

  • victims and potential victims of forced marriage
  • professionals dealing with cases

The FMU public helpline can help with:

  • safety advice
  • providing assistance when an unwanted spouse is due to move to the UK (‘reluctant sponsor’ cases)
  • where possible, assistance to return to the UK for e victims overseas

Contact details

  • telephone: + 44 (0) 20 7008, 0151, 0900-1700 Monday to Friday
  • outside of these hours, consular staff can be contacted on +44 (0) 20 7008 5000 to assist British nationals overseas
  • Email, including for outreach work:
  • Facebook: Forced Marriage page
  • Twitter: @FMUnit
  • Media enquiries: The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office +44 (0) 20 7008 3100 and the Home Office +44 (0) 300 123 3535


  • What is forced marriage? Available in Arabic, Bengali, Dari, English, Hindi, Romanian, Sinhala, Somali, Turkish, Urdu, Welsh and Yiddish.
  • Survivors Handbook provides practical support for anyone who is at risk of, has experienced or has escaped from a forced marriage. This includes those returning to the UK from overseas.



‘Right to choose’ campaign

The Government developed a series of short films aimed at deterring potential forced marriage perpetrators. These films highlight the devastating impact forced marriage can have on victims and their families, and highlight where victims can turn to for sources of further support.

Animated documentaries

The British High Commission in Islamabad commissioned short animated documentaries in Urdu on the issue of forced marriage in Pakistan.

Training and workshops

The Home Office provides a free online course on awareness of forced marriage, Forced Marriage Awareness, Virtual College.

The Forced Marriage Unit run workshops for the police and social services - dates and details on how to book can be found on Eventbrite. The Forced Marriage Unit can also provide bespoke training to raise awareness of forced marriage and to share best practice when dealing with cases. Please contact the Forced Marriage Unit at for further information.

Syed’s story

“I was 25 when my parents took me to Pakistan for a family wedding. When I got there I discovered it was me who was getting married. I did not want to but my mum has lots of health problems and everyone said I was making her ill by refusing. After days of saying no I finally gave up and submitted to my family’s will. When I got back to the UK, I just tried to forget about it and get on with my life. Then my wife’s family started pressuring me to put in a visa application for her to come to the UK. They would call me and threaten me.”

Syed called the Forced Marriage Unit at the earliest opportunity and was given advice about how they could assist him as he was a reluctant sponsor.

Khadija’s Story

“I used to get into trouble at home a lot, for wearing make-up or wanting to stay out late with my friends. My mum didn’t like it and we argued a lot. When I was 19, she told me we were going on holiday to visit my grandmother in Somalia. When I got there, my mum dropped me off at boarding school and told me I had to stay there until I learned to be a good Somali daughter. She took my passport and left me there. The school was really bad. They used to beat us and told me that if I wanted to leave then I had to marry one of the guards.”

Khadija had kept a secret phone hidden. She told her boyfriend what had happened and he called the Forced Marriage Unit. The unit worked with Khadija and the police in the UK to get a Forced Marriage Protection Order, which instructed Khadija’s mum to return Khadija to UK.

First steps

The Government’s guidance on forced marriage contains detailed guidance for professionals on how to assist victims and potential victims of forced marriage. It comprises statutory guidance for the leaders of organisations with safeguarding responsibilities, and more detailed non-statutory practice guidelines for front-line staff in a range of professions. This resource pack is not a substitute for that guidance, but the section below highlights some of the key actions which should be taken in all cases:

  • Wherever possible, see the victim/potential victim immediately in a secure and private place where the conversation cannot be overheard
  • See them on their own – even if they attend with others
  • Explain all the options to them
  • Recognise and respect their wishes
  • Perform a risk assessment – it is best to use a tool as guided by your specific agency
  • Contact a trained specialist (forced marriage specialist) as soon as possible
  • If the person is under 18 years of age, or aged 18 and under in Wales, refer them to the designated person responsible for safeguarding children and activate local safeguarding procedures. In Wales, if information is received that a child is at risk, this must be reported under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. Further information on reporting a concern in Wales is set out in the Wales Safeguarding Procedures: Social Care Wales (Safeguarding.Wales)
  • If the person is an adult with care and support needs, refer them to the designated person responsible for safeguarding vulnerable adults and activate local safeguarding procedures. In Wales, if information is received that an adult with care and support needs is at risk, this must be reported under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. Further information on reporting a concern in Wales is set out in the Wales Safeguarding Procedures.
  • If an adult discloses to an NHS professional that they are in a forced marriage situation, and states that they don’t want any further action taken about it, then, provided they have the capacity to make this request, their rights as a patient would need to be respected and patient confidentiality maintained, with no reports or referrals made. This is the case for rape and domestic abuse too.
  • Reassure the victim about confidentiality where appropriate i.e. that practitioners will not inform their family
  • Establish and agree an effective method of contacting the victim discreetly in the future, possibly using a code word to confirm identity
  • Obtain full contact details that can be forwarded to a trained specialist
  • Where appropriate, consider the need for immediate protection and placement away from the family

Best practice

  • Inform the victim of their right to seek legal advice and representation.
  • If necessary, record any injuries and arrange a medical examination.
  • Provide personal safety advice.
  • Develop and agree a safety plan in case they are seen – for example, agree another reason why you are meeting.
  • Establish whether there is a family history of forced marriage, e.g. have siblings been forced to marry in the past? Other indicators may also include domestic abuse, self-harm, family disputes, unreasonable restrictions (e.g. withdrawal from education or “house arrest”) or missing persons within the family.
  • Advise the victim not to travel overseas and/or discuss the difficulties they may face.
  • Identify any other potential criminal offences that may have been committed and refer to the police if appropriate.
  • Provide advice on the further service or support they should expect and from whom.
  • Ensure that the victim has the contact details for an identified specialist.
  • Maintain a full record of the decisions made and the reasons for those decisions.
  • Information from case files and database files must be kept securely and should preferably be restricted to named members of staff only.
  • Refer the victim, with their consent if aged 18 or over, to other recognised local and national support groups with a history of working with victims of domestic abuse and forced marriage.


  • Send them away.
  • Approach members of their family or the community – unless the individual has a learning disability and you need to work alongside the family in assessing their capacity.
  • Share information with anyone without the victim’s express consent, unless it is in a child’s best interest or in the public interest.
  • Breach confidentiality – unless there is an imminent risk of serious harm or threat to the life of the victim, the victim is a child at risk, or it is in the public interest.
  • Attempt to be a mediator or immediately encourage mediation, reconciliation, arbitration or family counselling.

Case study

S’s story: a case dealt with by Southall Black Sisters.


S was born in Afghanistan and when she was eight years old, she moved to the UK with her older sister as a dependant of her mother’s indefinite leave to remain status. They later obtained British nationality. Their mother had moved to the UK after their father was murdered in Afghanistan.

Unlike her older sister, S was allowed to go to school. However, she was not allowed to meet her friends after school or make friends with any of the children in their neighbourhood. Her mother was very abusive to her and her sister as they were beaten regularly.

Children’s Services

S disclosed the child abuse to her teachers and the school reported her to Children’s Services, who immediately placed S in foster care. S’s mother hired a solicitor to challenge Children’s Services about the removal. She explained that she was worried about S’s safety and did not want her to be raised in a non-Muslim household. She apologised to S for the abuse and promised to be a better mother. S returned home.

Children’s Services threatened to report S’s mother to the police if there were any further allegations of abuse.

Move overseas

S’s mother moved the family to Pakistan under the guise of going for a three-month holiday to visit their family. Prior to leaving the UK, S was told by her mother that she would send her to school in Pakistan and assured her that she could also go to college to get a degree. S’s social worker advised S not to move to Pakistan as he believed that her mother did not have good intentions and would eventually force her to get married there but she trusted her mother because she was treating her kindly and lovingly.

S’s mother began renting a property in Pakistan. S and her sister were not allowed to leave the home. Her mother resumed abusing them and they were not allowed to go to school.

S’s mother later married a businessman and became his second wife. They moved to Afghanistan to live in his house with his first wife and other children.

S was treated as a slave by her stepfather’s first wife and stepsiblings. She was forced to do all the housework and if she did not finish her chores on time or made any mistake, she would be severely beaten by her step-brother.

Forced engagement

When she was 18 years old, S was forced to get engaged to the same stepbrother who would beat her regularly. He would also threaten to continue abusing her after they were married and take a second wife so she would be further mistreated.

However, S did not marry her stepbrother as her stepfather’s first wife did not approve of her and said that she wanted to keep her as her servant instead. Her mother agreed to this arrangement. S became severely depressed and began to self-harm. S’s sister was also soon forced to get married.

S received a call from her sister informing her that she had run away from her in-laws with her baby and was coming to collect her so they could run away together. She disclosed abuse from her husband and in-laws. S met her sister outside her aunt’s house and they travelled by taxi to meet a cousin in a neighbouring town.

British High Commission Islamabad

The cousin helped them to go to Pakistan where they approached the British High Commission (BHC). The BHC facilitated safe accommodation with a trusted NGO until they were able to prepare travel documents and the sisters were repatriated back to the UK with the child.

Southall Black Sisters (SBS) Involvement

SBS is in receipt of a grant from the FCDO and Home Office. The grant is for the purpose of assisting with the resettlement of forced marriage victims who are repatriated back to the UK. This could involve meeting victims at the airport, assisting them with short term accommodation, providing them with daily subsistence, and other essential tasks to assist their return back to the United Kingdom. S was referred to SBS by the Forced Marriage Unit. Once S, her sister, and sister’s child, had been granted exit permits they prepared to travel to the UK.

Their most pressing needs were finding temporary accommodation and subsistence as they had escaped without any money for basic necessities. SBS supported them in the following ways:

  • using the Forced Marriage Repatriation Fund provided by the FMU to assist them to settle back into the UK
  • securing temporary accommodation in a bed and breakfast using the fund so that they would have somewhere to stay after the flight
  • collecting them from the airport and accompanying them to the B&B to ensure their safety
  • providing S with a weekly subsistence and referring her to the SBS support group
  • providing S and her sister with emotional support following their difficult experience
  • conducting a risk assessment, which found S to be high-risk as her mother had discovered she had fled Afghanistan and had moved back to the UK
  • buying her a warm coat as she only had a small suitcase of clothes that were not adequate for the cold British weather
  • helping the sisters apply for new British passports so that they could access benefits to which they were entitled

Prevalence of forced marriage in England and Wales

Understanding the prevalence of forced marriage is challenging as there is limited information in this area.

The most recent prevalence study is from 2009. The Government commissioned the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) to carry out research on the issue of forced marriage in England. The research had a particular focus on UK resident children and young people under 18 years of age.

Based on the data on the number of forced marriage cases (either actual forced marriage or the threat of it) encountered by local organisations and the key national organisations, the national volume of reported cases of forced marriage in England was estimated to be between 5,000 and 8,000.

This estimate did not include a potentially large number of victims who had not come to the attention of any agencies or professionals, since a large general population survey would be required to estimate the prevalence of these ‘hidden’ victims.

While the Government’s statistics on the number of cases handled by the FMU cannot be used to measure prevalence, they provide a useful insight into these crimes.

The Tackling VAWG Strategy states that the Home Office will explore options to better understand the prevalence of forced marriage and FGM in England and Wales given their hidden nature and lack of robust estimates. The Government has committed to work on both issues and work is under way to carry out a feasibility study for an exercise to assess the prevalence of these crimes.

The Right to Choose and Multi-agency practice guidelines: Handling cases of Forced Marriage

The right to choose: government guidance on forced marriage comprises statutory guidance for heads of safeguarding organisations, and non-statutory guidelines for front-line professionals, on forced marriage. This covers a range of issues including victims’ legal rights in the criminal and civil/family justice system, and on immigration and no recourse to public funds.



The Care Act 2014 placed adult safeguarding for individuals with care and support needs on a statutory footing (in Wales the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 applies). Both Acts highlight the need for cooperation and partnership across organisations to prevent abuse and neglect of adults with care and support needs. Where an adult with care and support needs appears to be at risk of or experiencing abuse or neglect and unable to protect themselves, then under Section 42 of the Care Act 2014, the local authority must carry out safeguarding enquiries. (Similar responsibilities apply under section 19 of the Social Services and Well-being Wales Act 2014.)

Agencies have a role to play in ensuring that adults with care and support needs are able to help themselves.

Good practice should include:

  • Listening to adults with care and support needs – especially those with learning disabilities and mental capacity issues – and making sure they know how to raise concerns.
  • Ensuring adults with care and support needs have access to trusted adults or professionals outside the family to whom they can turn for help.
  • Providing training and raising awareness about forced marriage amongst staff who care for and support adults with care and support needs.

Key legislation and guidance include:

In Wales:


Existing multi-agency statutory and non-statutory guidance on the subject of safeguarding children includes:

The right to choose: government guidance on forced marriage sets out the roles and responsibilities of all agencies involved in safeguarding children and procedures that should be adhered to by all agencies. This guidance includes information about identifying children and young people at risk of harm, discussing concerns, making referrals, undertaking initial assessments and the next steps to take.

Useful contacts

  • Ann Craft Trust - supporting organisations to safeguard adults and young people at risk and minimise the risk of harm.

Supporting victims with learning disabilities

Section 121(2) of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 provides that when a victim lacks capacity to consent to marriage, the offence of forced marriage is capable of being committed by any conduct carried out for the purpose of causing the victim to enter a marriage (whether or not the conduct amounts to violence, threats or any other form coercion).

Capacity to consent is defined in line with the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (the 2005 Act) and it is important to note that that the 2005 Act states that a person must be assumed to have capacity unless it is established that they lack capacity. It may not always be clear whether a person has capacity to consent to marriage or not.

It is important to note that people who lack capacity may not demonstrate any signs of duress or distress. They may say that they want to marry or form the civil partnership and appear happy, but may not have the capacity to consent.

A person with a learning disability with capacity will need more specialised support than someone without a learning disability. Not following the specific guidelines or making assumptions about how the person has reached the decision to marry may in fact put them at increased risk.

Capacity to consent to marriage can be assessed in accordance with the Mental Capacity Act 2005. It is useful to remember that “In some cases people with learning disabilities may appear to be more able than they are. They may communicate in such a way that masks their disability. Their learning disability may therefore not be taken into consideration and the correct services might not be put into place.” (Care Services Improvement Partnership (2007) ‘Positive Practice, Positive Outcomes: a handbook for professionals in the criminal justice system working with offenders with learning disabilities.’)

My Marriage My Choice has information and resources including a toolkit for assessing capacity to consent to marriage, case studies, films in Hindi, Sylheti and Urdu and other information.

Case study: C’s story

A young male - ‘C’ - who was in his early 20s and had a learning disability attended college one morning with his passport and mobile phone charger and informed his lecturer that he believed his dad was arranging a marriage for him.  The college lecturer contacted social care and informed them of the concerns that C had reported and a social worker went out to meet with him.  Following discussions between C and the social worker it was identified that a forced marriage was being planned and that he had the mental capacity to decide about marrying.  Safeguarding procedures were initiated and used as a framework to safeguard him.  A FMPO was applied for by the local authority and C was taken to a place of safety.  He chose not to return home and a longer-term place of safety was sought.

Case study: Malcolm’s story

“I’m Susan. Malcolm is my dad. He is 75 and over the last 5 years has become very ill with Alzheimer’s disease and his dementia is severe. He cannot even remember the most basic things like where he lives or how to make breakfast. Last summer I was told by his neighbour Pamela that she had booked a holiday for them and they are in love and are planning to get married when they get back. I couldn’t believe it. When I asked dad about the situation he couldn’t remember saying yes to a trip but thought a holiday might be nice. When I mentioned marriage, he didn’t seem to understand.”

Susan was not sure this would be defined as a forced marriage so she called the Forced Marriage Unit to ask. They explained that if Malcolm does not have capacity to consent to marriage, it would be a criminal offence for him to be married. A capacity assessment was carried out immediately by adult social care. It determined that Malcolm did not have capacity to consent to marriage and the decision was made for the police to take action to prevent this from happening.


Operation Limelight is a multi-agency safeguarding operation at the UK border which focuses on harmful practices such as forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). It is a national operation delivered by the police and Border Force. Delivery partners can include local children’s social care departments, and health and voluntary sector organisations which specialise in responding to harmful practices. Often delivered before and after the three main school holidays, Limelight targets flights connecting to locations where there is high prevalence of FGM and forced marriage. It seeks to raise awareness of harmful practices, identify vulnerability and safeguard those at risk. It also seeks to develop intelligence and identify possible perpetrators. A video created for FGM Zero Tolerance Day provides information about the multi-agency response to Operation Limelight.

Border Force is also expanding the Limelight initiative more widely with the other Border 5 partners: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

This document has been designed by the Metropolitan Police Service to assist those engaged on Operation Limelight to have sensitive conversations with passengers regarding FGM and forced marriage.

Operation Sentinel is a force-wide operation aimed at enhancing the service provided by West Midlands Police and its partners to victims across the force area who are especially vulnerable. A particular focus has been applied to “honour”- based abuse, FGM, domestic abuse, child sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Sentinel aims to ensure that police, partner agencies (such as local councils, charities and support services) and the community work together more effectively and share information to fight these crimes.

Police and Crime Commissioners have also undertaken a range of actions in their local areas. Get in touch with your local Police and Crime Commissioner to find out more information.

Useful contacts

  • College of Policing – a set of resources for the police on ‘honour’ based abuse and forced marriage

Health in England

Healthcare practitioners may find the following resources useful:

Victims of forced marriage may benefit from accessing a mental health service. This page on the NHS website shows how local mental health services can be accessed.

Schools in England

From September 2020, Relationships Education has been compulsory for all primary pupils. Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) has been compulsory for all secondary pupils and Health Education has been compulsory for all pupils in state-funded schools.

RSE covers the concepts of, and laws relating to, sexual consent, sexual exploitation, abuse, grooming, coercion, harassment, forced marriage, rape, domestic abuse and FGM, and how these can affect current and future relationships.

The Sex Education Forum and PSHE Association have advice and guidance on effective teaching and learning in sex and relationships education and PHSE. Listed below are some helpful resources and information about forced marriage for schools and teachers:

The Guidance for Schools: Safeguarding Young People from Sexual Violence, CSE and Harmful Practices explains what the police do in relation to a range of complex issues which affect young people in schools and colleges, including forced marriage. The police want to encourage information sharing so that partners within the safeguarding process can work together more effectively.

This guidance covers:

  • what the relevant legislation says
  • what options police have from both the safeguarding and enforcement perspectives
  • what resources are available to give readers a better understanding of each of these highly complex issues
  • what vulnerability signs schools could look for
  • suggestions as to how schools can respond to forced marriage concerns within existing referral procedures

That guidance incorporates the Harmful Practices Schools Charter, which is a partner-led document which seeks to encourage schools to adopt a preventative approach to educating children on all of these harmful practices, including forced marriage. Schools are encouraged to sign up to the Charter, as it represents a tangible and direct commitment from them to promote the delivery of inputs in schools which address harmful practices. Schools can use the principles supported by the Charter by incorporating them into lesson plans developed and delivered by school staff or by external providers. It also promotes the appropriate sharing of information through existing referral procedures.

Useful documents and courses for teachers

Useful contacts

Case study: Mariam’s Story

“Just after I turned sixteen, my parents decided it was time for me to get married. They asked my school for time off, saying we were travelling for my grandmother’s funeral. Nobody would tell me what was going on, but I overheard my mum talking about it on the phone. One of the teachers was asking me about the time off and saw that I was getting upset.”

Mariam’s teacher spoke to the designated safeguarding lead about the situation, and she asked Mariam some more questions. She explained that she would not tell Mariam’s parents what they had talked about, but would have to contact social services. A social worker came to see Mariam at school. Based on what she had said, the local authority applied for a Forced Marriage Protection Order so she could live safely at home and carry on studying. Staff at the school spoke to her regularly about how things were going and whether she needed any extra support. She passed her exams and went on to college.

Case study: Jamila’s story

When Jamila was 16 years old, her parents found out that she had been seeing a 17-year-old boyfriend for a while. Jamila was worried that they would send her abroad and force her into a marriage. She was scared about what might happen to her if she went home, so she spoke to a teacher with whom she had a good relationship.

The teacher took Jamila’s concerns seriously, and spoke to the Forced Marriage Unit and the local police. With their help, the school prepared a plan to monitor and support Jamila, and to prevent her from being taken out of the country, involving Jamila at every stage. The police visited Jamila at school and gave her practical advice about what to do in various situations, for example, how to alert staff at the airport if she needed help. Jamila felt supported and able to return home. She feels confident that she would know what to do were her parents to try to take her out of the country, and knows that whenever she has any concerns she can talk to her teacher. The school monitors her attendance every day, and would investigate straight away if she did not turn up.

Jamila took her exams and the school supported her in applying for a college place.

Children’s social care

All children’s social care professionals should work in accordance with the guidelines in ‘Working together to safeguard children (2018) in England and ‘Safeguarding children: working together under the Children Act 2004’ (2004) in Wales.

Useful resources

Case study: Samera’s Story

Samera, 15, from Cardiff, was told she had to go to Somalia to visit her grandmother who was unwell. When Samera arrived in Somalia her mother dropped her off at a boarding school and took her passport away. She told Samera that she was not allowed to leave until she agreed to marry an older man whom she had been betrothed to. The guards at the boarding school were physically abusive to her. Samera had kept a secret phone hidden and managed to call her friend in the UK. Her friend called children’s social care to report what had happened. Children’s social care applied for a Forced Marriage Protection Order and this was served on Samera’s mother, ordering her to make all of the arrangements to bring Samera back into the UK.

Case study:

A young adult male (B) had been diagnosed with a learning disability, after a member of the public who had heard shouting coming from his home address reported safeguarding concerns. When social services first visited the property it was identified that B lived with his mother, father, twin sister and her husband. B appeared clearly distressed, was observed to be pacing around the house and talked about how he was scared about the outdoors and going outside. Social workers along with relevant health professionals including a Community Nurse, Occupational Therapist and Psychiatrist began working with B. It was established that B had been known to children’s social care services and when turning 18 had transitioned to adult social care, but for unknown reasons B and his family had disengaged from support, which had resulted in there being no social care input for in excess of ten years. During this time, it appears that B had very limited social opportunities and had not left his home address very often. This had resulted in a deterioration in his mental wellbeing and physical health. B was also not registered with a local GP.

Extensive work was undertaken to support B in accessing the appropriate health and social care support services, and frequent home visits were completed by all professionals involved. During a planned home visit one day to support B and his parents with regards to their financial circumstances, B’s father openly stated that they were saving money to take B abroad so he could get married. Initial discussions took place with B to obtain his views and wishes about getting married. B did not seem able to expand on why he wanted to get married beyond stating ‘he wanted to get married and have a good wife’. This resulted in his ability to decide to marry being questioned and so a mental capacity assessment was completed which deemed B to lack the mental capacity to decide to marry.

Safeguarding procedures were initiated and an application was made to the courts for a Forced Marriage Protection Order which was granted. Alongside the safeguarding work and Forced Marriage Protection Order a Care Act assessment was completed and day opportunity support was sourced for B. B was supported throughout all this involvement by an independent advocate to ensure his views, wishes and feelings were obtained. B continues to live at home with his parents, the Forced Marriage Protection Order remains in place and B accesses day opportunities five days a week, where he gets to engage in a variety of building and community-based activities. B has a number of friends at the day service, his mental health has significantly improved and he has become a lot more confident in making his needs, wishes and feelings known. Social Care remain involved monitoring B’s circumstances and the support he receives, ensuring it is meeting his needs.




See section 5 of this document for films developed by the Government.

Support Organisations


The following list may not be exhaustive, and it reflects the information available at the time of publication.

  • Airport chaplaincy teams

Gatwick Airport Chaplaincy, Heathrow Chaplaincy, Manchester Airport Chaplaincy and Stansted Airport Chaplaincy have teams that can support vulnerable passengers.

  • Ashiana provides a range of services benefiting vulnerable women and girls. These include advice, advocacy, counselling and specialist refuge provision, for women at risk of forced marriage and honour based violence and those with no recourse to public funds. Ashiana also delivers a range of community-based activities, prevention work and training for professionals.

  • Ashiana Sheffield has over 30 years’ experience working with Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) adults, children and young people fleeing domestic and sexual abuse including forced marriage, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, gang violence and ‘honour’ based violence.

  • BAWSO is an all-Wales voluntary organisation which provides a specialist service to black minority ethnic women and children made homeless through a threat of domestic abuse or fleeing domestic abuse in Wales. They have purpose-built refuges across Wales. They also provide emotional and practical support for BME women living in social housing. The service is accessible 24 hours a day.

  • Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid provides services for women and children who have been affected by domestic abuse, rape and sexual abuse in the Birmingham and Solihull area.

  • Children and Families Across Borders identifies and protects vulnerable children who have been separated from their families in complex situations due to conflict, trafficking, migration, family breakdown or asylum-related issues.

  • Citizens Advice Bureau offers free, confidential and impartial information and advice on a wide range of subjects including housing, employment, immigration and personal matters.

  • Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline (Scotland) This helpline is available to support anyone with experience of domestic abuse or forced marriage, as well as their family members, friends, colleagues and professionals who support them. They provide a confidential service and the helpline is open 24/7.

  • Forward (North London) is an African women-led women’s rights organisation working to end violence against women and girls.

  • Freedom Charity is a UK-based charity formed to give support to victims of forced marriage and violence upon women thought to have brought dishonour on their family. Freedom protects children through a 24/7 helpline, answered by professionals who understand dishonour abuse and how to help victims. Freedom educates children with specialist lessons around dishonour abuse, working with schools to deliver PSHE accredited lesson plans which they have developed. Freedom supports children and professionals with an app that puts the victim ‘two clicks away from help’, and offers professional training to key workers so they can spot the signs of dishonour abuse and protect children at risk.

  • Gaia Centre (London) - provides confidential and independent support for anyone experiencing gender-based violence in the London borough of Lambeth. It also provides refuge spaces.

  • Galop - supports LGBT+ people who have experienced domestic abuse, sexual violence, hate crime, so-called conversion therapies, ‘honour’-based abuse, forced marriage, and other forms of abuse.

  • Gatwick Travel Care - Victims of forced marriage may require assistance when they arrive at Gatwick, and Travel Care can be contacted for advice. The service is available 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, and 9am to 4pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.

  • Halo Project is based in the North-East of England, and provides support to victims of ‘honour’-based abuse and forced marriage, by providing appropriate advice and support to victims.

  • Heathrow Travel Care is a crisis intervention service offering support to vulnerable people at Heathrow Airport. Victims of forced marriage may require assistance upon arrival at the airport and Heathrow Travel Care can be contacted for advice and guidance.

  • Hemat Gryffe Women’s Aid Glasgow provides safe temporary refuge accommodation to women, children and young people and help them settle into their own home when leaving the refuge. They provide crisis support to women, children and young people living in the wider community. They support children and young people up to the age of 18 impacted by domestic abuse, forced marriage or honour based abuse.

  • Imkaan - is dedicated to addressing violence against Black and minoritised women and girls. The organisation works on issues such as domestic abuse, forced marriage and ‘honour’-based abuse. They work at local, national and international level.

  • Include Me TOO - a national charity supporting the inclusion, rights, equality and participation of BME and marginalised communities, disabled children, young people and their families. They provide a range of services including advocacy, outreach, information and advice and support on ending all forms of abuse and harmful practices.

  • IKWRO – Women’s Rights Organisation provides advice and support to Middle Eastern, North African and Afghan women and girls living in the UK, who have experienced, or are at risk of any form of “honour” based abuse, including forced marriage, child marriage and female genital mutilation, or domestic abuse.

  • IMECE Women’s Centre works to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls. They support and empower Turkish, Kurdish and Cypriot Turkish women and Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) women to improve the quality of their lives.

  • JAN Trust works with vulnerable women and young people from BAMER and Muslim backgrounds to help them overcome barriers to integration and inclusion, so they can improve their prospects.

  • Karma Nirvana is working to end Honour Based Abuse in the UK. They run the national Honour Based Abuse Helpline, train professionals, gather data to inform policies and services, and campaign for change. Karma Nirvana have a helpline, to listen and to help anyone who is affected by Honour Based Abuse.

  • Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation (KMEWO) provides specialist support services for Kurdish, Middle Eastern and North African women. They are an accredited “led by and for” black and minoritised women’s organisation that strives for equality, safety, justice and empowerment. KMEWO provides specialist violence against women and girls (VAWG) services and crisis intervention to some of the most vulnerable minoritised women who are survivors of domestic violence and harmful practices (HP), including FGM, forced marriage and “Honour” Based Violence (HBV).

  • London Black Women’s Project - works with Black, Asian and visible minority ethnic women who have experienced domestic violence and abuse.

  • Luton All Women’s Centre supports women and girls living in Luton and Bedfordshire. They offer a wide-range of advisory, information-based, practical and holistic support services. Their aim is to challenge gender inequality and empower women and girls to enjoy lives that are safer, healthier and fairer.

  • Men’s Advice Line - the helpline for male victims of domestic abuse.

  • Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK) works to improve social justice and equality for Muslim women and girls. They find out about the experiences of Muslim women and girls through research and helpline enquiries.

  • Nahamu works for the right of every Jewish person to live a life that is guided by their religion, without sacrificing their personal autonomy or welfare. They support those who wish to live a full and sustaining life of religious observance in the community that they have chosen, as well as those who wish to make changes to their lifestyle or move into a different part of the community.

  • Naz and Matt Foundation exists to empower and support LGBTQI+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning and Intersex) individuals, their friends and family to work towards resolving challenges linked to sexuality or gender identity, particularly where religion is heavily influencing the situation.

  • Palm Cove Society provides supported accommodation to many individuals on a daily basis. They operate as a halfway house to give individuals the breathing space required to develop life skills and the basic knowledge required for UK living.

  • Refuge – for women and children, against domestic violence. They provide a Freephone, 24-hour National Domestic Abuse helpline.

  • Respond – providing therapy and specialist support services to people with learning disabilities, autism or both who have experienced abuse, violence or trauma.

  • Samaritans – providing 24-hour, 365 day access to someone to talk to and listen to you about any concerns.

  • Shakti Women’s Aid – helps BME women, children and young people experiencing, or who have experienced, domestic abuse from a partner, ex-partner, and/or other members of the household.

  • Sharan Project provides support and advice to vulnerable women, particularly of South Asian origin, who have been or are at risk of being disowned due to abuse or persecution.

  • Shelter – provide advice and support services and offer one-to-one, personalised help with housing issues and homelessness.

  • SignHealth works to improve the health and wellbeing of Deaf people. SignHealth’s work is varied and aims to promote easier access to healthcare and information. They partner with the NHS and other services and take on projects, carry out research and raise awareness.

  • Southall Black Sisters (SBS) are a group of black and minority women with over 40 years of experience of struggling for black and minority women’s human rights in the UK. They run a resource centre in West London which provides a comprehensive service to women experiencing violence and abuse, including forced marriage and honour based abuse. They offer specialist advice, information, casework, advocacy, counselling and self-help support services in several community languages, especially South Asian ones. Southall Black Sisters prevents and handles forced marriages of women and girls in the UK and those who are British residents visiting overseas. They also run the Forced Marriage Repatriation Victims Project commissioned by the FMU to provide support to victims to re-settle in the UK.

  • Stonewall Housing – support LGBTQ+ people facing or experiencing homelessness, or living in an unsafe home.

  • Switchboard LGBT+ helpline - a safe space for anyone to discuss anything, including sexuality, gender identity, sexual health and emotional well-being.

  • The Vavengers are a charity committed to ending FGM and all other forms of Gender-Based Violence. They listen, support and take action. They educate, collaborate, aid and empower. They are a survivor-led organisation, standing with and for every woman affected by FGM/cutting and VAWG.

  • Throughcare Housing Support was set up in 2006 to provide housing and support to vulnerable people. Their aim is to empower individuals to overcome their vulnerabilities through person centred support. Throughcare believe that by overcoming their vulnerabilities, individuals can gain the confidence to pursue their goals to independent living, further education or employment. Throughcare Housing and Support enable individuals to live a better quality of life and to live it proudly.

  • True Honour’s mission is to engage with police and agencies to help them gain a better understanding of victims. They work to meet the needs of South Asian communities by providing training and raising awareness on hidden abuse, and by supporting them in a safe and empowering way.