Law and the justice system – guidance

Forced marriage

Information and practice guidelines for professionals protecting, advising and supporting victims.


A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used. It is an appalling and indefensible practice and is recognised in the UK as a form of violence against women and men, domestic/child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.

The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be physical (including threats, actual physical violence and sexual violence) or emotional and psychological (for example, when someone is made to feel like they’re bringing shame on their family). Financial abuse (taking your wages or not giving you any money) can also be a factor.

Information for people directly affected by forced marriage is also available.

Forced Marriage Unit

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office unit was which set up in January 2005 to lead 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 simple safety advice, through to aiding a victim to prevent their unwanted spouse moving to the UK (‘reluctant sponsor’ cases), and, in extreme circumstances, to rescues of victims held against their will overseas.

The FMU undertake an extensive outreach and training programme of around 100 events a year, targeting both professionals and potential victims. The FMU also carry out media campaigns, such as 2015’s ‘right to choose’ campaign, where the FMU commissioned a short film to raise awareness amongst young people at risk of being forced into marriage, as well as potential perpetrators.


Legislation on Forced Marriage

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 makes it a criminal offence to force someone to marry This includes:

  • 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’re pressured to or not)
  • Breaching a Forced Marriage Protection Order is also a criminal offence
  • The civil remedy of obtaining a Forced Marriage Protection Order through the family courts will continue to exist alongside the new criminal offence, so victims can choose how they wish to be assisted
  • Details of the new law can be found on the Legislation website

Forcing someone to marry can result in a sentence of up to 7 years in prison

Disobeying a Forced Marriage Protection Order can result in a sentence of up to 5 years in prison

Statistics on Forced Marriage collected by FMU

Statistics on forced marriage for 2014 (PDF, 200KB, 1 page)

Statistics on forced marriage for 2013 (PDF, 156KB, 1 page)

Statistics on forced marriage for 2012 (PDF, 154KB, 1 page)

Guidance for professionals

Multi-Agency Statutory Guidance for dealing with forced marriage 2014

Guidance is for all persons and bodies who exercise public function in relation to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and vulnerable adults.

Multi-Agency practice guidelines: Handling cases of forced marriage 2014

Step-by-step advice for frontline workers. Essential reading for health professionals, educational staff, police, children’s social care, adult social services and local authority housing.

2010 Review of implementation of statutory guidance across public agencies in England and Wales

Guidance for Members of Parliament and constituency offices

We’re keen that MPs and their staff are aware of how best they can work to support constituents who may be facing forced marriage. The guidance above is available for all MPs and provides background information on forced marriage and describes best practice for supporting victims and dealing with their families.

Guidance for Registrars

We’ve produced a factsheet for registrars to refer to when they suspect or know about a forced marriage.

eLearning training for professionals

The FMU has developed a new forced marriage e-learning package for professionals. The modules aim to enable professionals to recognise the warning signs of forced marriage and ensure that the appropriate action is taken to help protect and support all those at risk.

Please register for this free training module

Please email if you encounter problems registering.

Outreach programme

The FMU runs an outreach programme across the UK to raise awareness of forced marriage. FMU has delivered outreach events to a number of statutory agencies and organisations across a range of sectors, including:

  • Local Authority Safeguarding Teams across England and Wales
  • Police Forces across England and Wales
  • The UK Judiciary
  • Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) across England and Wales
  • Women’s Aid
  • Victim Support
  • Charities and NGOs
  • Schools and colleges across England and Wales
  • Airport officials across the UK, including UKBA and airline carrier staff

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

We would also be grateful for your feedback on our outreach programme if we come to speak at your event. Please complete our short survey.

Domestic Programme Fund

The Domestic Programme Fund (DPF) provides funding to charities for small-sized projects in the UK that will deliver against some of the objectives listed below. Over one year on from when forced marriage became a criminal offence, it is now more important for us to recognise the significance of having even better service provision for all those at risk. This can be achieved if all partners across government, non-governmental organisations and other key agencies continue to work collectively and collaboratively.

The DPF has continually promoted this model of joined-up working, by encouraging and enabling voluntary organisations to provide a diverse range of activity to protect those at risk and strengthen the message on a local level that forced marriage is not acceptable and will not be tolerated in the UK.

2015/16 FMU Domestic Programme Fund

Through this year’s Domestic Programme Fund, we have supported a range of UK-based organisations to deliver a variety of projects. These projects include increasing refuge provision and emergency accommodation for victims; working to challenge attitudes within hard-to-reach groups; developing information resources for LGBT victims; and delivering awareness raising sessions at schools and colleges.

What projects did the FMU fund this year?

DPF successful projects 2015-2016 (PDF, 140KB, 3 pages)

Our publications and other resources

The FMU has a number of free publications. These range from leaflets and posters to statutory and practice guidelines. If you would like to order hard copies of these publications, please email your request stating:

  • which publications you would like (please see list below)
  • how many of each
  • your full postal address and a contact number

While there are no set limits on how many copies you can order, we ask that you think realistically about how many you need. If we are unable to send you part of your order, we will contact you to let you know. We aim to dispatch all requests within 10 working days. Alternatively, you can download copies:



  • Marriage: it’s your choice: (PDF, 231KB, 2 pages) 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

Forced Marriage poster

English (PDF, 382KB, 1 page)

English-Welsh (PDF, 623KB, 1 page)

Arabic (PDF, 281KB, 1 page)

Bengali (PDF, 599KB, 1 page)

Hindi (PDF, 660KB, 1 page)

Pashto (PDF, 615KB, 1 page)

Punjabi (PDF, 659KB, 1 page)

Somali (PDF, 238KB, 1 page)

Turkish (PDF, 239KB, 1 page)

Urdu (PDF, 603KB, 1 page)


Forced Marriage: A Survivors Handbook

Additional resources

But it’s not fair (by Aneeta Prem)

But it’s not fair by Aneeta Prem (Edition 2) (PDF, 4.32MB, 178 pages) is a fictional account of different perspectives on forced marriages that’s useful reading for school children and teachers.

‘Right to choose’ campaign videos

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) recently launched a 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

Consequences of forced marriage

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


Animated documentaries

The British High Commission in Islamabad has commissioned short animated documentaries on the issue of forced marriages in Pakistan in an attempt to raise awareness of this human rights violation, the consequences of which include domestic abuse, divorce, honour killings, child abduction, abandonment, isolation, and family break-ups.

Sara’s story

Sara’s story

Farzana’s story

Farzana’s story

Shazia’s story

Shazia’s story