The Law Shop is now closed. Please click here to find out more.

Forced Marriage Law & Facts

A forced marriage in the eyes of the law is a marriage that takes place with the absence of the full and free consent of both parties.

A victim of forced marriage may be coerced into marrying someone through physical threats or emotional blackmail.

Forced marriages, which are distinct from arranged marriages, where the arrangement can be declined, are not justifiable on any religious or cultural grounds, and are viewed as illegal and immoral.

It is a criminal offence to force somebody into marriage. This includes the act of taking someone overseas to force them to marry, even if the marriage does not actually take place. It also includes marrying someone without the mental capacity to consent to the marriage. The sentence for forced marriage is up to seven years.

Forced Marriage Unit

The Forced Marriage Unit is a joint initiative between the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Home Office, and is a means of support, information and advice provided by the government. The unit is for anyone at risk of, or who has previously been through, a forced marriage.

The Forced Marriage Unit issues guidance, information and support for:

  • those concerned that they may be forced into marriage during a family visit overseas
  • those who have already been subject to partaking in a forced marriage, whether the bride, groom, or their friends or family
  • those who have been forced into marriage and are being forced to sponsor a visa for their spouse
  • any official third parties, e.g. GPs and teachers, who may be asked for support by a potential victim of forced marriage.

Reporting forced marriage

To make any report of a forced marriage or suspected case of forced marriage, contact the Forced Marriage Unit on 020 7008 0151. All information provided will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Forced Marriage Protection Orders

Forced Marriage Protection Orders are to protect and support people who are being forced into marriage, or who are currently in a forced marriage.

A judge will issue a document containing legally binding behavioural conditions which are imposed on the person attempting to force somebody into marriage. If these conditions are not adhered to, then the result can be up to a five-year jail sentence.

No two Protection Orders are the same; each is unique and designed to protect the victim according to the circumstances for that individual case.