Hide this site
Covering your tracks

Forced marriage

If you're being made to get married when you don’t want to, this is a forced marriage.

Teenage girl focusing on school work

Forced marriage is against the law and if you are under 18 is seen as child abuse.

The minimum age for marriage in the UK is 16 years.

You should always have a choice about if you want to get married, and you should always have a right to say no.

How do forced marriages happen?

You can be forced into marriage by others such as parents, families or religious leaders. They may force you through assault, threats or violence, making you feel guilty, or taking your money away from you (theft). This is abuse. It is important you remember that this is not okay and you should always have a choice.

Why does forced marriage happen?

Reasons why you may be being pressured into marrying someone you don’t want to include:

  • Parents may feel pressured by other family members or communities to force a marriage, or may see forced marriage as being part of their religion or culture.
  • Parents may be fearful about your family’s reputation or honour; this is sometimes called their ‘izzat’. Parents may believe reputation can be damaged for a number of reasons, including if you are having a relationship out of marriage, or if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. If someone hurts, or threatens to hurt, you because of these, this is called honour-based violence (HBV).
  • There may be a financial motive behind the marriage. Families may force a marriage if they want you to marry another family member to keep money in the family, or they may force you to marry in exchange for money.

Some young people may be taken to another country to get married without them knowing this will happen. They may have important documents taken away from them such as their passport or birth certificate.

An arranged marriage is completely different to a forced marriage. In an arranged marriage, family members may choose the marriage partner. But the bride and groom involved can choose if they want to get married or not and still have the right to say no.

What can I do?

Being affected by forced marriage, or being in danger of forced marriage happening to you, can make you feel worried, sad or angry, and it may feel like you’re trying to deal with this all on your own. But it is against the law in this country to force you to marry against your wishes, whether it takes place here or abroad.

Lots of people find if they talk to someone it can help. Some things you can do:

  • Tell an adult you trust – this could be a teacher, your youth worker, social worker or support worker. It can be difficult to know how to have this conversation – we have some tips on asking for help.
  • Think about reporting it to the police. If you're at immediate risk of getting hurt or being forced to go somewhere, call 999. 
  • With a safe adult, you could develop a safety plan that would help you choose how best to keep yourself safe.
  • Talk to your friends. A good friend will listen to you and may help you speak to an adult. 
  • If you or someone you know is being forced into marriage either in the UK or abroad, you can contact the government's Forced Marriage Unit (FMU). If you are going to be forced to marry out of the country, you can contact the FMU who can help stop this happening. If you are already at the airport, speak to security officers or police who will be able to help you. If you are already abroad, you can contact the FMU who can help you return safely. You can also get help by contacting the British Embassy in the country that you are in.

If you are worried about a friend, we have some tips on how you can start the conversation and get them the right help.

Your questions answered about forced marriage

Is forced marriage part of my religion?

There is no religion that requires you to marry a person that you haven’t yourself chosen to marry (even though some people you know may say that your religion says you must). It can feel really scary to tell someone you trust that you don’t think this is right, but it’s important to remember that forced marriage is against the law and there is no religion that says it's right to force you into a marriage. You won’t be betraying anyone if you refuse to marry someone.

I’m a boy, so surely this can’t happen to me?

Despite what some people may say, forced marriage happens to both males and females and to people of every sexuality. Help is available to anyone who feels they're at risk, or have already been forced into a marriage. It's important to find someone you trust to talk to and who can help you to keep safe.

If I tell someone will my family find out?

You should be able to speak about your worries in confidence to a person you trust, which could include a teacher or support worker. You can ask them not to speak to any of your family members, and also ask to talk to a specialist organisation, or for them to help you to report it to the police.

Who can help me?

Victim Support/You & Co – you can contact your nearest Victim Support office, call the 24/7 Supportline, contact us via live chat, or if you are 16 or older, you can create a My Support Space account. This is a free, safe and secure online space where you can work through interactive guides to help you move forward after crime.

Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) – the unit works both inside and outside the UK, and can provide help and support if you're being or have been forced into marriage: 020 7008 0151.

British Embassy – addresses and contact details for British Embassies in different countries, who can help you if you have been forced into marriage out of the UK. 

Against Forced Marriage – supports and gives advice to those in or at risk of being forced into marriage: 0800 141 2994

Karma Nirvana – provides support and advice on protecting yourself if you're experiencing forced marriage or honour-based violence: 0800 599 9247

Freedom Charity – the charity provides advice on rights and how to stay safe if you're experiencing a forced marriage: 0845 607 0133

Childline – 24-hour support for young people on a range of issues: 0800 1111.

The Mix – provides information and support for under 25s on a whole range of issues, including rape and sexual assault as well as safe sexual relationships. Get confidential help by email, text, webchat or phone: 0808 808 4994.

Asking for help

Are you thinking about reporting?