What forced marriage is
You have the right to choose who you marry, when you marry or if you marry at all.
Forced marriage is when you face physical pressure to marry (for example, threats, physical violence or sexual violence) or emotional and psychological pressure (eg if you’re made to feel like you’re bringing shame on your family).
Forced marriage offences
Forced marriage is illegal in England and Wales. 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)
Forcing someone to marry can result in a sentence of up to 7 years in prison.
Forced marriage protection orders
You can ask the court for a forced marriage protection order.
Each order is unique, and is designed to protect you according to your individual circumstances. For example, the court may order someone to hand over your passport or reveal where you are. In an emergency, an order can be made to protect you immediately.
Disobeying a forced marriage protection order can result in a sentence of up to 5 years in prison.
Forced marriage abroad
Contact the FMU if you think you’re about to be taken abroad to get married against your will. Contact the nearest British embassy if you’re already abroad.
If someone you know is at risk
Contact the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) if you know someone who’s been taken abroad to be forced into marriage. Give as many details as you can, for example:
- where the person has gone
- when they were due back
- when you last heard from them
The FMU will contact the relevant embassy.
If they’re a British national, the embassy will try to contact the person and help them get back to the UK if that’s what they want.
Support for victims
Contact the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) if you’re trying to stop a forced marriage or you need help to leave a marriage you’ve been forced into.
How to contact the Forced Marriage Unit
Telephone: 020 7008 0151
From overseas: +44 (0)20 7008 0151
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Out of hours: 020 7008 1500 (ask for the Global Response Centre)
Find out about call charges
Call 999 in an emergency.
A trained professional will give you free advice on what to do next.
They can also help you:
- find a safe place to stay
- stop a UK visa if you’ve been forced to sponsor someone
Read the handbook about being a survivor of forced marriage. It has details of organisations that can give you help and advice.