How to protect, advise and support victims of forced marriage – information and practice guidelines for professionals.
Information for people directly affected by forced marriage is also available.
Recognise a forced marriage
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. It is recognised in the UK as a form of domestic or child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.
The pressure put on people to marry against their will may be:
- physical – for example, threats, physical violence or sexual violence
- emotional and psychological – for example, making someone feel like they are bringing ‘shame’ on their family
Financial abuse, for example taking someone’s wages, may also be a factor.
How the Forced Marriage Unit can help
The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office unit which leads on the government’s forced marriage policy, outreach and casework. It operates both inside the UK (where support is provided to any individual) and overseas (where consular assistance is provided to British nationals, including dual nationals).
The FMU operates a public helpline to provide advice and support to victims of forced marriage as well as to professionals dealing with cases. The assistance provided ranges from safety advice, through to helping a forced marriage victim prevent their unwanted spouse moving to the UK (‘reluctant sponsor’ cases). In extreme circumstances the FMU will assist with rescues of victims held against their will overseas.
The FMU undertake an extensive training and awareness programme targeting both professionals and potential victims, and carries out a range of work to raise awareness.
- telephone: +44 (0) 20 7008 0151
- email: email@example.com
- email for outreach work: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: Forced Marriage page
- Twitter: @FMUnit
- media enquiries:
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office +44 (0) 20 7008 3100
- Home Office +44 (0) 20 7035 3535
Understand the legislation on forced marriage
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 made it a criminal offence in England, Wales and Scotlland to force someone to marry. (It is a criminal offence in Northern Ireland under separate legislation).
- 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 are pressured to or not)
Forcing someone to marry can result in a sentence of up to 7 years in prison.
Breaching the terms of a Forced Marriage Protection Order, imposed under the Family Act 1996, can result in a sentence of up to 5 years in prison.
It is also possible for victims or those at risk to apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO). As a civil law measure, an application for a FMPO would be made in the family court. Read guidance from the Ministry of Justice on taking out an FMPO
Failure to comply with the requirements or terms set out in a FMPO granted by the Family Court, is a criminal offence and can result in a sentence of up to 5 years in prison.
In 2017 the government introduced lifelong anonymity for victims of forced marriage to encourage more victims of this hidden crime to come forward.
Access guidance and training
The government is committed to ensuring that professionals who are made aware of a forced marriage victim have the training and guidance they need to provide effective advice and support. This includes police officers, social workers, teachers, and safeguarding professionals.
The Force Marriage Unit (FMU) has created:
- multi-agency practice guidelines: handling cases of forced marriage, which provides step-by-step advice for frontline workers, including health professionals, educational staff, police, children’s social care, adult social services and local authority housing
- multi-agency statutory guidance for dealing with forced marriage, which provides guidance for all persons and bodies who exercise public functions in relation to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and vulnerable adults
You can also read:
- guidance for members of Parliament and constituency offices – available for all MPs to support them in assisting their constituents, this guidance provides background information on forced marriage and describes best practice for supporting victims and dealing with their families
- guidance for registrars – this factsheet is for registrars to refer to when they suspect or know about a forced marriage
The FMU has also developed free forced marriage e-learning for professionals. The modules aim to enable professionals to recognise the warning signs and ensure that appropriate action is taken to help protect and support all those at risk.
Please email email@example.com if you have problems registering.
The FMU runs an ongoing outreach programme across the UK, to raise awareness of forced marriage and delivers training to statutory agencies and voluntary and community organisations (including local authority safeguarding teams, police forces, and the judiciary).
Statistics on forced marriage
Other statistical information on forced marriage
The Ministry of Justice produces, as part of their family justice quarterly statistics series, data on the number of applications made for a Forced Marriage Protection Order and the number of orders granted by the court.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) produces, as part of their Violence against Women and Girls crime report, data on the number of forced marriage referrals from the police to the CPS, defendants charged and prosecutions.
Download publications, posters and videos
The FMU publish a number of free online publications, ranging from leaflets and posters to guidance. We no longer provide printed copies.
- these are business-card sized and contain contact details for the FMU. They can be given to any potential victim. They are small enough to be placed in wallets/purses.
‘Right to choose’ campaign videos
The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) developed this short film aimed at deterring potential forced marriage perpetrators. The film highlights the devastating impact forced marriage can have on victims and their families, and signposts victims and highlights where victims can turn to sources of for further support.
Right to choose: consequences of forced marriage
‘Right to choose’ campaign audio
The FMU has also produced an abridged audio version of the Right to choose: consequences of forced marriage video. The FMU also commissioned the audio in 5 additional languages: Arabic, Bengali, Punjabi, Somali and Urdu.
The FMU also commissioned 3 short videos to highlight the increased reports of forced marriage during the summer holidays. These videos show how to spot the signs of forced marriage and focus on 3 young people all affected by these issues.
Right to choose: Spotting the signs of forced marriage - Nayana
Right to choose: Spotting the signs of forced marriage - Jess
Right to choose: Spotting the signs of forced marriage - Azim
The British High Commission in Islamabad commissioned short animated documentaries on the issue of forced marriage in Pakistan.