Forced Marriage

Definition

A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used. It is an appalling and indefensible practice and is recognised in the UK as a form of violence against women and men, domestic/child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.

The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be physical (including threats, actual physical violence and sexual violence) or emotional and psychological (for example, when someone is made to feel like they’re bringing shame on their family). Financial abuse (taking your wages or not giving you any money) can also be a factor. https://www.gov.uk/forced-marriage

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Law

Forced marriage is a criminal offence in England and Wales. Under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, it is a criminal offence to “use violence, threats or any other form of coercion for the purpose of causing another person to enter into marriage”. This also includes deceiving someone into leaving the UK for the purpose of forced marriage abroad.

This means that in addition to applying for a Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) to prevent someone from being forced into marriage, victims are also able to report the offence to the police. If someone chooses to report to the police, the case will be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS will then decide whether to proceed with a prosecution. The CPS may decide to pursue the case with or without the victim’s consent.

Statistics

In 2013 the Forced Marriage Unit gave advice and guidance to a potential 1485 cases of forced marriage. 86% of these cases involved females and 14% involved males.  Where the age was known, 15% of cases involved victims below 16 years, 25% involved victims aged 16-17, 33% involved victims aged 18-21, 15% involved victims aged 22-25, 7% involved victims aged 26-30, 3% involved victims aged 31+.

An estimated 1,000 British Asian girls are forced into marriage each year.

Points to consider

Forced marriage is not an issue that is specific to any religion, ethnic group or culture.

Forced marriages are not the same as arranged marriages. In an arranged marriage, whilst family members match the couple to be married, either party has a choice as to whether or not to agree with the marriage.

Forced marriage is sometimes interpreted as a religious practice but it cannot be justified on religious grounds: every major faith condemns it and freely given consent is a prerequisite of Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh marriages.

Warning signs

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The Forced Marriage Unit, a joint initiative between the FCO and the Home Office, has identified a number of tell-tale signs that may suggest a child is vulnerable to a forced marriage:

  • A student is anxious about or is fearing the forthcoming school holidays.
  • Surveillance of a student by siblings or cousins at school or being met by family at the end of the day.
  • A student being prevented from continuing their education in the sixth form, college or university.

Other signs may include persistent absence; requests for extended leave; a decline in behaviour, performance or punctuality; not being allowed to attend extra-curricular activities or the sudden announcement of an engagement to a stranger.

Our Girl Film 

Our Girl from Animage Films on Vimeo.

AVA developed a Resource Pack to accompany the film: http://www.avaproject.org.uk/our-resources/good-practice-guidance–toolkits/our-girl—film-on-forced-marriage.aspx

Films from the Forced Marriage Unit

Right to choose: Spotting the signs of forced marriage – Nayana

Right to choose: Spotting the signs of forced marriage – Jess

Right to choose: Spotting the signs of forced marriage – Azim