Any person may be forced into marriage – this includes people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and religions.
A forced marriage is where one or both people do not or cannot consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used to force them into the marriage. It is also when anything is done to make someone marry before they turn 18, even if there is no pressure or abuse.
Forced marriage is illegal in Europe. It is a form of domestic abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.
Forcing someone to marry isn’t always physical, but it is always against the law.
The pressure put on a person to marry can take different forms:
physical pressure might take the form of threats or violence (including sexual violence)
emotional or psychological pressure might take the form of making someone feel they are bringing shame on their family, making them believe that those close to them may become vulnerable to illness if they don’t marry, or denying them freedom or money unless they agree to the marriage
But when the person who is to get married is aged under 18, doing anything to make them marry is a crime – it doesn’t have to be pressure.
In some cases people may be taken abroad without knowing that they are to be married. When they arrive in that country, their passport(s)/travel documents may be taken to try to stop them from returning to Europe.
What is consent?
For a marriage to be consensual, it must be entered into freely by both people getting married. You should feel you have a choice.
Legally, people with certain learning disabilities or severe mental health conditions are not able to consent to marriage, even if they feel the marriage is what they want.
What is an arranged marriage?
When it comes to the marriage of adults, an arranged marriage is not the same as a forced marriage. In an arranged marriage, the families take a leading role in choosing the marriage partner, but both individuals are free to choose whether they want to enter into the marriage.
When it comes to the marriage of children (up to 18), there is no distinction between arranged marriage and forced marriage. Doing anything to cause a child to get married is a forced marriage – and a crime.
If you consent to marry, but later change your mind – yet still feel that you will be required to go ahead with the marriage – that is a forced marriage too.
What can I do?
If you are in immediate danger call the police.
If you or someone you know is being forced into marriage either in the Europe, you can contact the Police
From Forced marriage – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) (Open Government Licence)