A forced marriage is when one or both spouses do not, or cannot consent to the marriage. There is usually some level of duress, whether it is psychological, physical, or sexual in nature. The practice often involves forcing a young girl to marry an older man. In developing countries, as many as one in three girls is married before reaching the age of 18, and one in seven is married before age 15.
The reasons for child marriage include gender inequality, poverty, and longstanding cultural practices. Early and forced marriage can lead to emotional and physical abuse, rape, early pregnancy and childbirth, poor health, and lack of education.
What to do if you are being forced to marry
Information and assistance for those being forced into marriage is expanding. If you are concerned that you may be forced into marriage, there are resources you can turn to for help.
- Forced Marriage Unit: 020 7008 0151 (or 0044 20 7008 0151 if you are overseas), from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. If you are low on credit, they can call you back. Calls are kept confidential. The FMU can also help if you have already been forced into marriage and want help getting out.
- Foreign Office Response Centre (when the FMU is closed): 020 7008 1500
- Police: 999. If you are in immediate danger or cannot reach the FMU, do not hesitate to call the police.
- Forced Marriage Protection Orders: This legal document is issued by a judge and contains legally binding conditions that require a change in the behaviour of those trying to force someone into marriage. It may be issued to prevent a forced marriage, to stop intimidation and violence, to reveal the whereabouts of someone, to stop someone from being taken abroad, to relinquish passports, etc. The court may attach a power of arrest. Visit www.justice.gov.uk for more information.
If you are a British national being taken abroad
If you fear you might be forced into marriage while away from home, avoid the trip if at all possible. It will be more difficult if you become isolated and monitored.
If you can, have your passport and flight information available when you call for help. If you are unable to do it yourself, someone you trust can make the call for you.
If you cannot avoid the trip, contact the FMU and find out what you can do. If you feel it is safe to do so, share the information with a trusted person. Provide as much information as you can about the trip and keep the number of the British Embassy or High Commission with you.
- · British Consulate, Embassy, or High Commission: If you are a British national abroad, they will get in touch with the Forced Marriage Unit in Britain.
What to do if you suspect someone is being forced into marriage
If you think someone is being forced into marriage against their will, you can contact the FMU on their behalf. If the person is travelling, try to provide as many details about their trip as you can.