Forced Marriage

A forced marriage is one that is performed without the valid consent of one or both parties involved. Marriage should be entered into freely and with the consent of both parties. Forced marriage, is against a person’s human rights and in some cases can be classed as domestic or even child abuse.

Forced marriage should not be confused with the tradition of arranged marriages. Arranged marriages are where the families of both parties take the lead in arranging a marriage but where the individuals are free to choose whether or not to accept the arrangement.

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Some people are put under a tremendous amount of pressure emotionally, for example being told ‘if you don’t marry, you will bring shame on the family’, and on occasions the pressure includes physical threats of violence. Sometimes a person may be taken abroad unaware of the fact that they are to be married there. Often on arrival their passports are taken from them (see Zenab’s story).

If you, a family member or friend are being forced to marry against your will, you can contact the Forced Marriage Unit on 020 7008 0151 where you can speak to someone in complete confidence who will advise you as to what your options are.

If you suspect you will be forced into marriage whilst abroad, you should make sure that you have the address and telephone number of the British High Commission or Embassy of the country you are visiting, along with the telephone number of a trusted friend. It would also be wise to take along a photocopy of your passport and perhaps some cash and a spare mobile phone if you are able.

If you have been forced into a marriage you can seek advice and help from the Forced Marriage Unit and again you should contact the British Embassy of the country you are in. There is also a Global Response Centre which you can call on 020 7008 1500. If you are in the UK, contact the Forced Marriage Unit.

Under the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 you can apply to the courts in England and Wales for a Forced Marriage Protection Order to prevent a forced marriage taking place or to protect you once this has happened.

Zenab’s Story

Zenab (not her real name) was 14 when she was taken on holiday by her father to Pakistan. On arrival there, her grandmother (father’s mother), took her passport and burned it. She was then introduced to a 30 year old doctor whom the family had planned for her to marry.

Zenab was sent to school in Pakistan where she felt able to talk to one of her teachers about her situation. The teacher informed the High Commission who were able to repatriate Zenab under protection to her mother, who had known nothing about the father’s plan for her to marry. Zenab’s parents are now divorced, but she remains emotionally tormented by the experience.