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4.8 Forced Marriage - Under Review


This chapter is under review. Please contact the Safeguarding Board Strategic Coordinator for more information.


UK Forced Marriage guidance

1.1 A clear distinction must be made between a forced marriage and an arranged marriage. In arranged marriages the families of both spouses take a leading role in arranging the marriage but the choice of whether or not to accept the arrangement lies with the young people. In forced marriages one or both spouses do not freely consent to the marriage and some form of duress is involved.
1.2 Although there is no specific criminal offence of “forcing someone to marry”, criminal offences may be committed. Perpetrators (usually parents or family members) could be prosecuted for offences including threatening behaviour, assault, kidnap, abduction, unlawful imprisonment, and murder.

Many young people who face a forced marriage will not even discuss their worries with their friends for fear their families may find out. Young people may therefore present with a variety of symptoms. The following factors may be an indication that a young person fears they may be forced to marry:

  • Education: Truancy; low motivation in school; poor exam results; withdrawal from school;
  • Health: Self harm; attempted suicide; eating disorders; depression; isolation;
  • Family history: Siblings forced to marry; family disputes; domestic violence and abuse; running away from home; unreasonable restrictions e.g. house arrest;
  • Employment: Poor performance; poor attendance; limited career choices; not allowed to work; unreasonable financial control e.g. confiscation of wages/income.

If anyone suspects that a child (male or female) is in danger of a forced marriage:

  • Social Services should be contacted immediately and a Strategy Meeting convened. This must include a representative from the Police;
  • The Strategy Meeting should agree who will be responsible for contacting the UK Forced Marriage Unit for advice. Where there are concerns about the immigration status of any individual contact should be made with the Passport and Immigration Section of the Crown Division in the Chief Secretary’s Office;
  • If the child or young person has made the complaint they should be involved in developing an appropriate plan.

At no time should:

  • Allegations be treated as a domestic issue and the young person be sent back to the family home;
  • The young person’s concerns be ignored and the need for immediate protection be dismissed;
  • Members of the young person’s family or community be contacted without the express consent of the young person as this will alert them to the enquiries;
  • The family be contacted in advance of any enquiries either by telephone or letter;
  • Information be shared outside child protection information sharing protocols without the express consent of the young person;
  • Breach confidentiality except where necessary in order to ensure the young person’s safety;
  • Mediation be attempted – this is very important as mediation can be extremely dangerous and has been linked with so called ‘honour crimes’.