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Forced marriages and who to contact for help

This section explains what forced marriage is, and describes the help that is available to people who are or may become victims of forced marriage.

To get expert legal advice, contact our team on 0207 237 3388 or e-mail us your query on Complete our contact form with details of the help you require and one of our UK Immigration Lawyers will contact you. Click here to complete this now. 

What is a forced marriage?

A forced marriage is a marriage that takes place without the full and free consent of both parties. In a forced marriage, you are coerced into marrying someone against your will. You may be physically threatened or emotionally blackmailed to do so, or you may be a victim of psychological abuse. Forced marriage cannot be justified on any religious or cultural basis.

Forced marriages are not the same as arranged marriages, where you can choose whether to accept the arrangement or not. In an arranged marriage, families take the lead in selecting a marriage partner but the couple has the free will and choice to accept or decline the arrangement. The tradition of arranged marriages has operated successfully within many communities and countries for a very long time. 

Frequently asked questions

In order to better understand the forced marriage issue, it is important to address frequently asked questions.

  1. Are arranged marriages are the same as forced marriages? All arranged marriages are not forced marriages. In arranged marriages, families arrange the match. The individuals getting married have a choice of whether or not to marry. In a forced marriage, the individuals getting married are not given the choice to marry.

  2. Aren't forced marriages a thing of the past? Forced marriages are still occurring in UK and many different parts of the world. The exact number of forced marriages cases in the UK is not known. Due to stigma and lack of awareness about forced marriages, many people do not report cases of forced marriages. 

  3. Why is forced marriage a part of some cultures? Forced marriage is not a cultural practice. Forced marriages can occur in any culture, class, religion or area of the world. Forced marriage is not accepted by any religion or culture.

  4. Who is forced to marry? Forced marriages happen to people of all ages and gender. While many marriages involve domestic violence and violence against women, many men are also victims of this practice. Forced marriage also happens to trans-gendered transsexual, gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals.Forced marriages can happen to anyone.

  5. Isn't forced marriage a private family matter? Forced marriages are not a private family matter. Forced marriages violate human rights and international laws. Parents/caregivers may believe that they are preserving cultural tradition, building stronger families and protecting their children. Regardless of motives, forced marriage is against the law and is an act of violence.

Am I in forced marriage?

If this is happening to you, or someone you know, it is not your fault and you are not alone. You can get help. It is important to understand that who you marry, when you marry or if you marry, marriage is a choice. Forced marriage is a form of abuse and is against the law in the UK. 

Forced Marriage Unit 

  1. You can email the Unit on:

  2. Telephone: 020 7008 0151.

  3. From overseas: +44 (0)20 7008 0151.

  4. Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

  5. Out of hours: 020 7008 1500 (ask for the Global Response Centre).

If you are worried about your immediate safety and well-being, contact your local police at 999.

The Forced Marriage Unit, managed jointly by the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), works to provide support and develop strategies to prevent British nationals from being forced into marriage overseas. The Unit offers practical help and guidance to affected British nationals and produces resources and materials for organisations and individuals directly or indirectly involved in issues associated with forced marriage. 

Apply for a forced marriage protection order
You can apply for a forced marriage protection order if one of the following applies:

  • you or someone else is being threatened with a forced marriage;

  • you’re in a forced marriage.

The order will be designed to protect you according to your individual circumstances, eg to stop someone taking you out of the UK. Call 999 if you’re in immediate danger.

Emergency orders
You can get an emergency order (an ‘ex-parte’ or ‘without notice’ order) to protect you immediately without the person you’re making the order against being involved in getting the order. 

  1. Download and fill in form FL401A.

  2. Write a witness statement. Include all of the following: what happened, that you want the forced marriage protection order to be made and why the court should deal with the application without notifying the person you’re making the order against. Write the following words at the bottom of your witness statement - this is known as a statement of truth: “I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true.” Sign and date the statement of truth. Take your form and statement to a family court.

Get a decision
The court will consider your case, including any risk of significant harm if the order isn’t made immediately. You’ll get a decision about the order when you take your form and statement to the court.

Get help
You can get legal aid. You can contact the Forced Marriage Unit for help - even if you don’t want to apply for an order.

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