A forced marriage is a marriage conducted without the full consent of both parties and where duress (emotional pressure in addition to physical abuse) is a factor. It is an entirely separate issue from arranged marriage, and the two should not be confused. In an arranged or assisted marriage, the families take a role in choosing and introducing the marriage partners but the marriage is entered into freely by both people, without duress being a factor. In a forced marriage, this consent does not exist.
In 2004 the Government's definition of domestic violence was extended to include acts perpetrated by extended family members as well as intimate partners. Consequently, acts such as forced marriage and other so-called 'honour crimes', which can include abduction and homicide, can now come under the definition of domestic violence. Many of these acts are committed against children. The Government's Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) produced guidelines, in conjunction with the DfE, on how to identify and support young people threatened by forced marriage. These are available from the associated resources section of this page.
If there are concerns that a child (male or female) is in danger of a forced marriage, local agencies and professionals should contact the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) – where experienced caseworkers are able to offer support and guidance – or visit the FMU page of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website. Police and children's social care should also be contacted.
All those involved should bear in mind that mediation as a response to forced marriage can be extremely dangerous. Refusal to go through with a forced marriage has, in the past, been linked to so-called 'honour crimes'.
This guidance describes the strategic responsibilities of statutory agencies. All schools and local authorities should be aware of the functions outlined within the guidance and ensure they are meeting the requirements that complement existing guidance.
The Department has, in previous years, written to schools, local authorities and local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) to encourage schools to use this set of materials to raise awareness of the important child protection issues surrounding forced marriage and to provide information about sources of support.
This is a website containing practical information and sources of advice. It was set up by the Ethnic Minority Foundation (EMF).
Forced Marriage Unit
Telephone: 020 7008 0151
PDF, 1 Mb
PDF, 1 Mb
PDF, 855 Kb
PDF, 866 Kb
Practical information and sources of advice and help on forced marriage.
The FMU assists actual and potential victims of forced marriage, as well as professionals working in the social, educational and health sectors.
This statutory guidance is issued under the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 and came into force on 25 November 2008. It sets out the processes that agencies must have in place when exercising public functions in relation to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults in cases of forced marriage.