Forced marriage

How to protect, advise and support victims of forced marriage, including information and practice guidelines for professionals.

Recognise a forced marriage

A forced marriage is where one or both people do not or cannot consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used to force them into the marriage. It is also when anything is done to make someone marry before they turn 18, even if there is no pressure or abuse.

Forced marriage is illegal in the UK. It is a form of domestic 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, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) 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 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 in repatriation of victims held against their will overseas

The FMU undertakes an extensive training and awareness programme targeting both professionals and potential victims, and carries out a range of work to raise awareness.

The FMU privacy notice describes how we process data to provide support to victims and potential victims of forced marriage. The notice explains how we will use your personal data, and what your rights are in relation to our use of your personal data.


  • telephone: +44 (0) 20 7008 0151
  • email, including for outreach work:
  • Facebook: Forced Marriage page
  • Twitter: @FMUnit
  • media enquiries:
    • The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office +44 (0) 20 7008 3100
    • Home Office +44 (0) 300 123 3535

The FMU has also produced:

Understand the legislation on forced marriage

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 made it a criminal offence in England, Wales and Scotland to force someone to marry. (It is a criminal offence in Northern Ireland under separate legislation).

This includes:

  • taking someone overseas to force them to marry (whether or not the forced marriage takes place)
  • doing anything intended to cause a child to marry before their eighteenth birthday, whether or not a form of coercion is used
  • causing someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to marry to get married (whether they are pressured to or not)

Forcing someone to marry can result in a sentence of up to 7 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 Forced Marriage Unit has created a guidance document which comprises:

  • multi-agency statutory guidance for dealing with forced marriage, which provides guidance for every person and organisation that has a public function relating to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and vulnerable adults; and
  • multi-agency (non-statutory) practice guidelines on handling cases of forced marriage, for frontline workers, including health professionals, educational staff, police, children’s social care, adult social services, local authority housing staff, registrars, and staff working at the UK border.”

You can also read:

  • guidance for members of Parliament and constituency offices (PDF, 302 KB) – 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
  • The Forced marriage resource pack contains key information, case studies, resources and details of victim support organisations relating to forced marriage. It is aimed in particular at front-line professionals, such as those working in schools, local authorities and the police.


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 if you have problems registering.

Outreach programme

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).

If you would like us to attend your event, please fill out a speaker request form and email it to us.

Statistics on forced marriage

You can view a collection of Forced Marriage Unit statistics including the most recent yearly release.

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 (PDF, 2.8 MB), data on the number of forced marriage referrals from the police to the CPS, defendants charged and prosecutions.

‘Right to choose’ campaign

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 further support.

Right to choose: consequences of forced marriage

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)

This film contains scenes which some viewers may find distressing.


Right to choose: spotting the signs of forced marriage (Jess)


Right to choose: spotting the signs of forced marriage (Azim)


Animated documentaries

The British high commission in Islamabad commissioned short animated documentaries on the issue of forced marriage in Pakistan.

Sara’s story

Sara’s story

Farzana’s story

Farzana’s story

Shazia’s story

Shazia’s story


We welcome your views on the support we provide, to help us to identify what we do well and what we could do better. Contact us using our feedback contact form.

Alternatively write to us:

Consular Feedback Team
Consular Directorate
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH

Or telephone +44 (0)20 7008 5000


Read the disclaimer relating to this guidance.

Updates to this page

Published 20 March 2013
Last updated 7 March 2023 + show all updates
  1. Removed line about continued operation during the Coronavirus pandemic.

  2. Added a link to the Forced marriage resource pack.

  3. Removed “guidance for registrars”. This is now superseded by new content for registrars within the updated multi-agency practice guidelines on handling cases of forced marriage, as published on 21 March 2022.

  4. New multi-agency guidance on forced marriage added under 'access guidance and training'.

  5. Email addresses updated and new speaker request form published.

  6. Updated content about the Forced Marriage Unit public helpline. Added 4 posters: 'I know where to go if I need help', 'I don't have to say yes to please anyone', 'I believe marriage is a choice' and 'I'm not ready to get married'.

  7. Updated email addresses for The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

  8. Added a link to the new Forced Marriage Unit statistics page which includes the Forced Marriage Unit statistics for 2019.

  9. Updated page with Marriage: it’s your choice (wallet card design)

  10. Updated to add that the Forced Marriage Unit can still be contacted as normal and this has not been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).

  11. Added a link to the Forced marriage statistics 2018.

  12. Forced marriage statistics for 2017 published.

  13. Added FMU statistics for 2016

  14. 'Right to choose' campaign audio files added.

  15. Statistics for 2015 published

  16. Added '"But it's not fair!" publication by Aneeta Prem

  17. Domestic Programme Fund bids launches on 19 June 2015

  18. Uploaded latest stats for 2014.

  19. Removed information relating to Domestic Programme Fund as deadline for bids had expired.

  20. Coming into effect from 16 June 2014, this update reflects new law criminalising forced marriages.

  21. Launch of the 2014/15 FMU Domestic Programme Fund - applications by 20 June 2014

  22. Added statistics for forced marriage for 2013

  23. Update to the The Domestic Programme Fund (DPF).

  24. First published.

  25. Update of documents.

  26. Add organisation in associations

  27. Assocaited with foreign affairs topic

  28. Updating a number of links.

  29. This video doesn't display What Is Forced Marriage ( so have removed it

Sign up for emails or print this page