Forced Marriage in the UK: Hidden Victims and Legal Challenges

Forced Marriage in the UK: Hidden Victims and Legal Challenges


Forced marriages are a significant issue that affects individuals worldwide, including in the United Kingdom. While the UK has made considerable progress in combating this violation of human rights, there are still hidden victims and legal challenges that need to be addressed. This article highlights the prevalence of forced marriages in the UK, the impact on those involved, the legal framework in place, and the challenges faced by authorities in tackling this complex issue.

Prevalence of Forced Marriages in the UK:

Forced marriages in the UK primarily occur within communities that have a background in South Asian, Middle Eastern, or African cultures. According to a report by the UK government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), they handled approximately 1,400 cases in 2019 alone. However, this data only represents cases reported to the FMU, and the actual figures may be significantly higher due to underreporting and the hidden nature of these incidents.

Hidden Victims of Forced Marriages:

Forced marriages often involve young individuals, predominantly women and girls, who face enormous pressure from their families or communities. Victims may experience physical and emotional abuse, isolation, and a loss of personal freedom. Many victims are coerced into marrying someone they do not know, often from a different country. This can lead to further exploitation, as victims may be subjected to domestic violence and other forms of abuse within these forced marriages.

Legal Framework:

The UK has taken significant steps to tackle forced marriages and protect potential victims. The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 provides a way for individuals to seek protection through forced marriage protection orders (FMPOs). FMPOs can prevent a forced marriage from taking place, protect victims already in a forced marriage, and assist in the investigation and prosecution of offenders.

Additionally, the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime, and Policing Act 2014 introduced a criminal offense of forced marriage in the UK. This legislation made it illegal to force someone into a marriage or to aid, abet, or incite someone to do so.

Challenges in Tackling Forced Marriages:

Several challenges complicate the successful prevention and prosecution of forced marriages in the UK. One significant obstacle is the cultural reluctance of victims to come forward due to fear of family rejection, honor-based violence, or the stigmatization associated with failed marriages. Additionally, potential victims may be unaware of their rights and the available support services.

Another challenge faced by authorities is the difficulty of gathering evidence and securing prosecutions. Forced marriages often occur abroad, making it challenging to obtain evidence that meets the standards required in a UK court. Moreover, victims may be reluctant to testify against family members, further impeding prosecutions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Forced Marriages in the UK:

1. What is the difference between an arranged marriage and a forced marriage?

Arranged marriages involve families proposing a potential match for individuals, who have the right to freely accept or decline the proposal. Forced marriages, on the other hand, involve individuals being coerced into getting married against their will.

2. Are forced marriages only prevalent within specific religious or cultural groups?

Forced marriages are not limited to any specific religious or cultural group. They can occur within various communities, including those with backgrounds in South Asian, Middle Eastern, African, and other cultures.

3. What should I do if I suspect someone might be at risk of a forced marriage?

If you suspect someone is at risk, you should approach them sensitively and express your concerns. Encourage them to seek support from charities or organizations specialized in forced marriage, such as the FMU or Karma Nirvana.

4. Are forced marriages illegal in the UK?

Yes, forced marriages are illegal in the UK. The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 and the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime, and Policing Act 2014 criminalize forced marriages and hold perpetrators accountable.

5. What support is available for victims of forced marriages?

The UK government, along with various NGOs and charities, provides support services for victims of forced marriages. These organizations offer confidential helplines, counseling, legal advice, and assistance in obtaining forced marriage protection orders if necessary.


Forced marriages in the UK remain a concerning issue affecting many individuals, particularly women and girls from certain cultural backgrounds. Although the UK has made strides in addressing this problem, hidden victims and legal challenges persist. It is crucial for communities, authorities, and support organizations to work together to raise awareness, support victims, and ensure justice for those affected by forced marriages.

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