What is forced marriage and what are the effects?

What is forced marriage and what are the effects?

Posted on Feb 16, 2016

What is forced marriage and what are the effects?



Forced marriage is when the bride, groom (or both) don’t want to get married but are pressured into it – usually by their families. 

The pressure can be financial, psychological, emotional or actual blackmail, or threatened physical or sexual violence.

Honour-based violence

Often the victim is at risk from people within their community through what’s known as ‘honour-based violence’.

This is violence that is committed in order to protect the ‘honour’ of the family (or community), which is called into question if a victim of forced marriage doesn’t cooperate with the plans made for them.

It is believed that at least 12 people die as a result of ‘honour’ killings in the UK each year.


Forced or arranged?

Forced marriage should definitely not be mistaken for arranged marriages. 

Arranged marriages are where someone’s family may suggest a partner and/or make the arrangements for a wedding, but the two people involved still have the decision of whether to accept the arrangements and go ahead with getting married.

So, I bet you’re thinking something along the lines of “okay, but this doesn’t happen anywhere near me”.

Incredibly, there were 1267 known cases of forced marriage in the UK 2014, just like this one, in which an 18-year-old girl from Birmingham was ordered to marry her cousin from Pakistan by her parents.

Shahin Ashraf of Muslim Women’s Network UK said: “She was being beaten every day with a bat and leather belt. Her parents were beating her and forced her into a forced marriage in Pakistan with her much older cousin whom she’d never met.

She was told that if she didn’t play the role of the happy bride in Pakistan she would die.”


What are the effects of forced marriage?

Isolation is one of the biggest problems for those in or under threat of a forced marriage. Often, there’ll be no-one they can trust or talk to. Some people are forced to travel overseas, find it impossible to communicate with anyone and have no access to their passport or money.

Forced marriage victims can also be forced to live as domestic slaves – kept under virtual house arrest, suffering abuse not only from their spouse but from extended family too. Women in forced marriages also frequently suffer violence, rape, forced pregnancy and childbearing.

Children conceived in a forced marriage environment can be seriously affected by it – either by learning that violence is acceptable, or being traumatised by witnessing it.

Victims of forced marriage have limited opportunities for further personal and educational development and end up with little or no career choices.




Actions to take if you have suspicions

Forced marriage is abuse and illegal. Therefore, it should be dealt with as part of your existing child and adult safeguarding policies. 

If you have concerns about a child under 18 with regards to forced marriage, you have a legal duty to share this information with social care or the police through the safeguarding lead in your organisation. 

Those over 18 should be reviewed under your organisation’s safeguarding adults’ policies and procedures, and this will vary according to your setting. 

An over-18’s right to confidentiality must be respected if they don’t wish any action to be taken as prosecuting their family is something many victims simply will not consider.

You should never raise the issue with the family of the victim as this will only increase the risk of harm.


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One chance rule

It is important each case of forced marriage is taken seriously as you may get only one opportunity to make a difference to the potential victim’s life. This is known as the one chance rule.

In practical terms, it is effectively gleaning as much information as possible about the person’s circumstances, and referring or reporting them to the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) for immediate help.

The FMU are the primary source of help and guidance for forced marriage victims, potential victims and those people who may come into contact with them. Their contact details can be found here.


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