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Forced Marriage

What is a forced marriage?

A person subjected to forced marriage is made to marry someone against their will. They may be physically threatened or emotionally blackmailed.

Forced marriages are often condoned within rigidly patriarchal families and communities in order to control women’s sexuality and freedom of expression (and sometimes men’s).  Forced marriages are sometimes used to strengthen alliances between and even within families and/or for payment of a dowry or something similar.

Many of the workshops held by KMEWO reveal that women from the Kurdish and Middle Eastern community when questioned about the future of children reported that they were keen to retain links with their birth countries and to ensure that their children were familiar with their families and cultural backgrounds.  They were also often very keen that their children marry someone ‘from back home’.  Some women also reported that they could never accept their daughter or son having a relationship with someone outside of their community.  When it comes to marriage their children’s partners must be from a similar religious and cultural background.  It is from these attitudes that forced marriages occur.  It is worth noting that both Heshu and Banaz, victims of honour-killing in recent years, were also victims of forced marriage.

Prevalence of forced marriage:

The Guardian newspaper reported in 2008 that ‘the number of women who have become victims of forced marriages in the UK has been drastically underestimated, according to a report published today. Government figures had previously suggested there were about 300 forced marriages a year but today’s study, which focuses on Luton, suggests the true figure could be up to 4,000.

“This report is living proof that the government’s figures on forced marriage are woefully inadequate,” said Margaret Moran, a member of the Commons home affairs select committee, which is investigating forced marriages and domestic violence. “If you multiply the statistics up and down the country, we’re talking about 3-4,000 cases per year rather than 300.”

Information about the Forced Marriage Unit:

The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) works to prevent British nationals being forced into marriage overseas. If you are worried that you might be forced into a marriage or are worried about someone else who may, you can contact them on:  020 7008 0151 (or 0044 20 7008 0151 if you are overseas)

They’ll need to talk to you on the phone to work out a plan of action. Their caseworkers deal with around 400 cases a year and are fully trained to deal with the emotional, cultural and social issues surrounding forced marriage.

Anything you tell them will be treated with complete confidentiality.

The FMU have trained professionals who offer confidential advice and assistance to those who:

  • have been forced into marriage overseas
  • are at risk of being forced into marriage
  • or people worried about friends or relatives.

Did you know?

  • The FMU deals with around 400 cases a year
  • One-third of the victims is under 18
  • Fifteen per cent of the victims are men
  • They have six full-time staff in London who work with our consular staff around the world
  • Whilst most of the cases are in Pakistan and Bangladesh they also deal with cases in unexpected locations like Ireland and Norway
  • They can also help people in the UK – you don’t need to be overseas to contact them
  • If you are a victim of forced marriage they can try and stop your spouse getting a visa to come to the UK.

The Home Office and Forced Marriage Unit’s (FMU) have published an information booklet on ‘What is a forced marriage?’ and also a booklet aimed at Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Trans-gendered individuals at risk of forced marriage.

In an emergency:

Call KMEWO on 020 7263 1027 or 07748 851 125

Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) 020 7008 0151 (or 0044 20 7008 0151 if you are overseas)

Call the Police on 999.

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