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Forced marriage

K. Barrington

4 Mar 2022

In England and Wales, forced marriage is illegal. Therefore, you cannot take someone abroad and force them to marry, and you cannot marry someone who does not have the mental awareness to decide to marry - whether it is under pressure or not.



Forced marriage is one of the pervasive crimes in the UK. It takes various forms of forced marriage. For some, it is a marriage for money, where one of the partners who would like to reside in the UK legally pays the other partner considerable money for entering into a marriage with a person without the right to stay in the UK. In other cases, they are cultural problems. Most often, forced marriages occur only in the Islamic culture. However, it has recently been noticed that the Gypsy tribes in Spain are also experiencing forced weddings. When analysing other European countries, you can see in the statistics that Germany is struggling to counteract forced marriages by Greeks and Italians in Germany despite the lack of acceptance for this type of crime.

A Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) in the UK has set up a massive campaign to prevent and help victims of forced marriages. Therefore, those forced into marriage must ask for help from the Forced Marriage Unit.

You can contact FMU by email at or phone at 020 7008 0151. You can also contact the unit from abroad on +44 (0) 20 7008 0151.

The Forced Marriage Unit is open Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm UK time. Priority cases after opening hours may be reported by telephone on 020 7008 5000.

In addition to contacting the forced marriage emergency unit, you can always call 999 and report your unwanted situation.

A qualified specialist from the Forced Marriage Unit will give you free advice and help you find a safe place to stay or hold and revoke a UK entry visa if you have been forced to sponsor someone.

Please remember that forced marriage does not only involve marriage for money. Forced marriages are also brought about by family members who force victims to marry someone they have chosen for them.

Forced marriage can be classified according to three different pressures. The first is physical pressure, which mainly forces them to marry by physical or sexual violence threats. The second is emotional and psychological pressure, most often related to the culture and family tradition. In this case, the family exerts the most significant pressure to enter an unwanted marriage. It is also often the case that a person forced is emotionally or psychologically manipulated by the family, who threatens them to be excluded from the family. Also, the victim is accused of disgrace tradition or culture and bringing shame to the family. The third type of pressure comes from the financial background. People wishing to obtain residence rights in the UK (overstayers, illegal immigrants, etc.) seek victims among the poorest and most vulnerable communities. Usually, the victims permanently reside in the UK or are British citizens. These people generally have financial problems, so the money offered plays a massive role as bait.

Fortunately, we are covered by human rights, and everyone has the right to decide whom, when, and what terms they intend to get married.

In England and Wales, forced marriage is illegal. Therefore, you cannot take someone abroad and force them to marry, and you cannot marry someone who does not have the mental awareness to decide to marry - whether it is under pressure or not.

However, it is worth remembering that forcing someone to get married or form a civil partnership may result in a penalty of up to 7 years in prison. This also applies to intermediaries who participate in the brokerage of this type of transaction.

Apply for a forced marriage protection order

It is very often the case that people are forced to marry and are intimidated due to it. Sometimes they think they can do nothing, but that's a misinterpretation. Anyone can apply for a forced marriage protection order, which a court issues. There is even an option that the court may order immediate protection for a person forced into marriage. However, it is worth mentioning here that non-compliance or disobeying a forced marriage protection order may result in a sentence of up to 5 years imprisonment.

So we explain what a forced marriage protection order is, how to apply for it, and what happens after you receive it.

Anyone who meets one of the following conditions can apply for a forced marriage protection order:

  • You are a person in danger and forced into an unwanted marriage

  • You know a person who is in danger and forced into an unwanted marriage

  • You are a person who has entered into a forced marriage

  • You know a person who entered into a forced marriage

However, please bear in mind that such cases are approached individually by the court, and usually, all individual circumstances are analysed in order to decide how the victim could be protected against unwanted marriage. It can be a court order that will prevent someone from taking a forced person from the UK to another country.

When it comes to issuing an emergency order ("ex-parte" or "without notice" order), it is also possible, and then you get immediate protection for this purpose by completing a form FL401A.

There is an option in this form for the testimony of a witness. This witness statement must include all the elements of what happened, why you are requesting the court to issue a forced marriage protection order and why the court should consider this request without notifying the person against whom it is giving the order.

Annotations summarising the witness statement should also be attached - this is known as a statement of truth: „I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true”. Please do not forget to sign the statement and put the date under the declaration.

The applicant should send this form and testimony to the nearest family court.

The court will consider the application by considering all individual circumstances, including any risk of not issuing the order. By contacting the FMU, you can obtain legal aid available to everyone, not only for victims applying for a forced marriage protection order.

How to apply for a forced marriage protection order

You can start the process of obtaining a protection order for forced marriages on your own by submitting the FL401A application. If we are applying with the help of a volunteer, another official who has been asked for help, or any other person who has obtained court approval to submit the application on behalf of the victim - each of the representatives mentioned above should use the FL430 form.

Please remember that anyone can apply for a Court Order, regardless of age, nationality, religion or culture. In the case of children, it is not necessary to use any help. The court and legal representatives decide what steps to take and what orders to apply in the event of forcing children into an unwanted marriage.

The applicant should include information on the protection required in the aforementioned forms. Consider what kind of protection is needed, for example, a ban on leaving the UK, entry visa cancellation or confiscation of travel documents.

If the submitting person wants to keep contact details private, they have the right to do so, but they must remember to fill in form C8 and attach it to the application.

You can get help filling in this type of form in our company, where a specialised adviser will help you fill in all the information correctly. All these documents must be sent to the nearest family court, and there are no court fees involved in such applications.

After you apply for a forced marriage protection order

After you file with the court, you should receive a notice of the proceedings, including the date of the hearing.

The applicant's responsibility is to ensure that the defendant receives a copy of the application and the witness's statement. Usually, in such sensitive cases, the applicant asks the court to provide these documents to the defendant. However, the applicant may ask someone to deliver these documents or deliver them themself if this does not put them at risk.

The defendant's notification alone or with the participation of third parties must be documented. The applicant must then submit the FL415: Statement of service of papers under the Family Law Act 1996, which will detail when and how the applicant provided the notice to the respondent.

Presence at the hearing is compulsory and usually takes place in a judge and legal advisers presence. If you need help and support in court, you have the option to ask the court for such assistance. Such assistance or support mainly relates to separate entrances, exits and waiting rooms so that the applicant will not be required to be in the same room with the defendant. You can also ask for protection in court if you have been a person of physical violence. As England and Wales are multicultural countries, the court can also provide an interpreter if requested in the application form. Please also remember that an interpreter can be requested by persons who use legal aid services and are represented by them. Such an interpreter is available for people with linguistic restrictions to translate everything said during such a hearing.

Sometimes, an interpreter is needed because the applicant has to testify or take relatives or friends to act as witnesses.

The court decision may vary. The court may ask for more evidence or information, make an order until appealed or changed by the court, decide that the person against whom the applicant has applied for the court order will be required to make a promise not to do something or to do something good measure concerning the applicant.

The applicant usually receives a court decision and order at the hearing, based on the applicant's circumstances. The circumstances may vary, one of which may be the prohibition or detention of the family and other family members to force the applicant into an unwanted marriage.

You will be provided with a copy of the court order and other court documents if necessary at the hearing.

Following this hearing, the applicant may apply to amend or extend the order and terminate this Court Order by completing Form FL403A.

You should deliver this court order and any other court documents to the defendant and any person named in the court order.

The applicant must also provide the police with a copy of the forced marriage protection order, together with a statement that a copy of this order and other court documents (if any) has been given to the defendant and all other persons named in the order.

Unless otherwise stated, the applicant should deliver such an order and declaration to the police station closest to your place of residence.

Please also remember that if there is any problem with a decision made by the court, everyone has the right to appeal against that decision. If, on the other hand, you are dissatisfied with the way you have been treated, you also have the opportunity to file a complaint.

Forced marriage abroad

If you suspect that you have planned to go abroad to get married against your will, contact the FMU as soon as possible.

Sometimes, when you go abroad, for example, when visiting your home country, you may be forced to get married. These situations usually happen when pressured by family members. Such a family tries to convince the victim to visit the family home under the pretext of illness of one of the family members. And then imprison the victim and force them to marry the person chosen by the family. Then, in fact, the visitor who becomes the victim of forced marriage is in a hopeless situation. However, it is worth knowing that the British embassy can help stop forced marriage in a given country.

Therefore, inform the forced marriage unit (FMU) as soon as possible if you realise that you will be forced into unwanted marriage or know someone who has travelled abroad voluntarily and can be a victim of forced marriage. Do not hesitate. Just call or write and provide as much information as possible about the potential victim. Namely, try to provide all the data of the potential victim, which country the person went to, when they were supposed to return or planned to return to the UK and when you made the last contact with this person. The FMU is a comprehensive aid campaign and will contact the appropriate embassy to help the person and prevent them from being forced into marriage. British citizens and UK residents will receive support from the embassy to help them return to the British Isles.

Hopefully, you find these information helpful. However, if you need additional information or consult your forced marriage feel free to contact our specialist via email Alternatively, you can book your free 30 minutes telephone consultation here.

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