A forced marriage is where one or both people do not consent and/or cannot consent to getting married. The individual must have the capacity to consent e.g. individuals with learning disabilities may not be able to consent if they do not understand the context of marriage and children under the age of 16 in the UK are not able to consent.
Forced marriage may involve pressure from family members, people in the community, or your future partner. Methods of coercing or forcing someone into the marriage may involve, violence, abuse, bribery, humiliation, being told you will bring shame on the family or community, threats, financial control, being disowned or cut off, neglect or abduction. Some individuals are at risk of extreme physical harm, resulting in their murder, for refusing to consent to a forced marriage.
Forced marriage is completely different from an arranged marriage. In an arranged marriage, both parties have consented to the union but can still refuse to marry if they choose to without repercussions.
Forced marriage is illegal in the UK and is recognised as a form of domestic abuse and an abuse of human rights. The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 made it a criminal offence in England, Wales and Scotland to force someone to marry (GOV UK, 2019).
Forced marriages can occur in all different groups of society and victims can vary in age, gender, religion, or ethnicity.
Last year, the UK government gave advice or support in 1,355 people through supported the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU). However, forced marriage is often a hidden crime and it is believed that the number of victims is a lot higher (GOV UK, 2019).