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Forced marriage

Forced marriage can be defined as 'a marriage conducted without the valid consent of one or both parties, where duress is a factor.'

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 (e.g. threats, physical violence or sexual violence) or emotional and psychological pressure (e.g. if you’re made to feel like you’re bringing shame on your family).

Force 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.

What is an arranged marriage?

An arranged marriage is a valuable, long-established tradition based on compatibility, consent and retaining choice.  The families take a leading role in choosing the marriage partner and the marriage is entered into freely by both people.

Forced Marriage Protection Order

A Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) can be made by a Family Court in order to protect victims, both adults and children of a potential forced marriage or people who are already in a forced marriage. This is a legal document issued by a judge designed to protect individuals according to their particular circumstances. It contains legally binding conditions and directions that require a change in the behaviour of a person or persons trying to force another person into marriage.

Forced Marriage Protection Orders may be made to prevent a forced marriage from occurring, to stop intimidation and violence, to reveal the whereabouts of a person, to stop somebody from being taken abroad, to hand over passports etc.  Under the legislation, a victim, friend or the police can apply to court for an order. The order can have a power of arrest attached to it. Where a forced marriage has taken place, the courts can also make orders to protect the victim and help remove them from that situation.

You could apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order yourself, or on behalf of someone else.  You can download the documents and instructions from the website

How can police help?

We want to encourage potential victims and those already in a forced marriage to seek support and help from the police.  We have a dedicated team of safeguarding officers within our Central Referral Unit who will explain the investigation process to you and will help you to stay safe.  We can also refer you to other support agencies.  Your safety is paramount and we will ensure safety plans are put in place for you and any other family members who are at risk of abuse.

We can also help you obtain a Forced Marriage Protection Order.

Reporting a Forced Marriage

If you, or someone you know has been subjected to a force marriage or fear that you may be forced to marry, we urge you to report to us, so that we can help keep you safe and to prevent further crimes.  You can call 999 in an emergency, or phone 101 if you want safeguarding advice and support, or to report a crime.

If unable to remain on the phone line, please let the call taker know times when it will be safe for police to contact you back and what phone number or email address is safe.  We can arrange to meet you at a time and place that is safe and convenient for you.  You can also visit your local police station.

Essex Police takes forced marriage and honour based crime very seriously and deal with each individual case sensitively and confidentially.  We work to keep victims safe and can take action to prevent forced marriages from happening.  You do not have to wait for a crime to be committed to come and talk to us about your fears.  We will support and protect you and investigate criminal offences.

Situations whereby a forced marriage may come to the attention of the police include:

  • An individual who fears they may be forced to marry.
  • A report by a third party of an individual who may be forced to marry or has been taken abroad for the purpose of a forced marriage.
  • An individual who has already been forced to marry either in this country or abroad or to someone from abroad.

We understand that victims may be scared to report forced marriage but we encourage you to do so.  Forced Marriage is under-reported because those at risk can feel tied by family or community loyalty, or may feel too distressed to speak out, or may be unaware of their options.

Forced Marriage is always a matter for the police, we can help you and signpost you to additional support that you may need.  We will do everything possible to protect you and bring the people responsible to justice.

Foreign and Commonwealth assistance

The Forced Marriage Unit at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are also available to help and advise you. In particular the FCO can help to repatriate you back to this country if you have been forced into a marriage abroad.  It is important that you don’t feel like there is no one there to help you.

Safety Advice

If you really don’t want to talk to the police or other agencies then please think about the following safety advice if you think you may be forced into a marriage in this country or abroad:

  • Keep a copy of your passport including dual nationality passports
  • Tell a trusted friend if you are travelling abroad, and give them addresses of where you will be staying and also details of your return flight so they can alert the police if you fail to return on that date.
  • Memorise police phone numbers, and/or email addresses of the Forced Marriage Unit and trusted friends, in case you have to call them in an emergency
  • Have addresses of British Embassies available
  • If unable to contact the police yourself, ask a trusted friend to do so - consider college or work contacts.
  • If being forced to travel abroad and you are unable to seek help beforehand, tell the authorities at the airport that you need help and don’t want to travel, for example, when you are at passport control or when you are being searched/scanned.  Border Force staff are very aware of Forced Marriage issues and they can take you aside and make sure you are kept safe.

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