A forced marriage is a marriage conducted without the valid consent of one or both parties and where duress is a factor.

Everyone has the right to choose who they marry and when, or whether they marry at all. A forced marriage is a marriage conducted without the valid consent of one or both parties and where duress is a factor. Duress can be physical, such as threats or physical or sexual violence, or emotional, such as being made to feel as if you’re bringing shame on your family.

Forced marriage includes taking someone overseas to force them to marry, regardless of whether the marriage takes place, or marrying someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage, whether they are pressured or not.

Forced marriage is illegal in England and Wales, and if you are in a forced marriage or you’re trying to stop a forced marriage, you should contact the Forced Marriage Unit by calling +44 (0)20 7008 0151 or emailing fmu@fco.gov.uk. Always call 999 in an emergency.  

Forced marriage is now a specific offence under section 121 of the Antisocial Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014, which came into force on 16 June 2014. Forcing someone to marry can result in up to seven years in prison.

The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007

This Act inserted provisions into the Family Law Act 1996 enabling the courts to make Forced Marriage Protection Orders to prevent forced marriages from occurring and to protect those already forced into marriage.

The Order can include prohibitions, restrictions or requirements to protect a victim from space, from the member or anyone involved. Involvement can include aiding, abetting, counselling, procuring, encouraging, or assisting another person to force or attempt to force a person to marry. Forced Marriage Protection Orders can last for a specified time or if the court so desires, set out the Order for an indefinite period, i.e. until varied or discharged. The following people can apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order:

  • the person who is to be protected by the order;
  • a relevant third party; and
  • any other person with the permission of the court.

A relevant third party is someone who is appointed to make applications on behalf of other relevant third parties and could include organisations such as the police and local authorities. 

How we can assist in cases of forced marriages

We have had some forced marriage cases where we have represented both the children through our litigation friend, namely the Offical Solicitors, as well as adult respondents. In one particular case, we represented a young woman on one of the first applications made for a Forced Marriage Protection Order, which you can read more about here

Speed, sensitivity and confidentiality are all vital when dealing with forced marriage cases. Our team will work with you to ensure your concerns and fears are heard, and you are fully supported in your case.

We will work with the relevant offices and parties, such as the Court of Protection, and continue to help you until the case is resolved. 

We will maintain regular contact with you, to keep you updated on the status of your case however long it takes.
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