As part of our recent Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) reaccreditation, we made a commitment to shine a light on all forms of domestic abuse.


Any person may be forced into marriage – this includes people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and religions. A forced marriage is where one or both people do not or cannot consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used to force them into the marriage. It is also when anything is done to make someone marry before they turn 18, even if there is no pressure or abuse.

Forced marriage is illegal in the UK. It is a form of domestic abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.

Forcing someone to marry isn’t always physical, but it is always against the law.

The pressure put on a person to marry can take different forms:

• physical pressure might take the form of threats or violence (including sexual violence)

• emotional or psychological pressure might take the form of making someone feel they are bringing shame on their family, making them believe that those close to them may become vulnerable to illness if they don’t marry, or denying them freedom or money unless they agree to the marriage

But when the person who is to get married is aged under 18, doing anything to make them marry is a crime – it doesn’t have to be pressure. In some cases, people may be taken abroad without knowing that they are to be married. When they arrive in that country, their passport(s)/travel documents may be taken to try to stop them from returning to the UK.

What is consent?

For a marriage to be consensual, it must be entered into freely by both people getting married. You should feel you have a choice. Legally, people with certain learning disabilities or severe mental health conditions are not able to consent to marriage, even if they feel the marriage is what they want.

What is an arranged marriage?

When it comes to the marriage of adults, an arranged marriage is not the same as a forced marriage. In an arranged marriage, the families take a leading role in choosing the marriage partner, but both individuals are free to choose whether they want to enter into the marriage. When it comes to the marriage of children (up to 18), there is no distinction between arranged marriage and forced marriage. Doing anything to cause a child to get married is a forced marriage – and a crime. If you consent to marry, but later change your mind – yet still feel that you will be required to go ahead with the marriage – that is a forced marriage too.

Who is at risk?

Although young women and girls are more likely to be victims of forced marriage, men and women of all ages, ethnicities and religions can be forced into an unwanted marriage including some for the LGBTQ+ community as well as those with learning disabilities or living with dementia.

Warning signs

Warning signs that someone may be at risk of forced marriage or may have been forced to marry may include:

  • running away from home
  • self-harming or attempted suicide
  • depression, or becoming worried or withdrawn
  • poor performance at work, school or college or unexplained absence
  • a surprise engagement to a stranger you’ve not heard of before
  • a sudden holiday (some people are tricked into going abroad for a holiday or to see relatives)
  • no control over their own money
  • not returning from a visit to another country

Where CAN I get help?

If you are in immediate danger, call the police on 999. If you or someone you know is being forced into marriage either in the UK or abroad, you can contact the Forced Marriage Unit.  The Forced Marriage Unit provides support and advice for victims, those at risk and professionals. The Forced Marriage Unit can provide advice and assistance both before and after you report to the police, and also if you choose not to report at all. The support offered ranges from providing information and guidance to helping British victims overseas return to the UK.

The Forced Marriage Unit can offer advice and support to anyone who is in the UK, regardless of nationality. Overseas, our British Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates can provide consular assistance to British nationals (including dual nationals), and in certain circumstances to a Commonwealth national. Call: (+44) (0) 207 008 0151 Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (+44) (0) 207 008 1500 Global Response Centre (out of hours) Email: