Forced Marriages in the UK

Forced marriage is a criminal offence. A forced marriage is one in which one or both spouses do not (or, in the case of some adults with learning or physical disabilities or mental incapacity, cannot) consent to the marriage and violence, threats, or any other form of coercion is involved. Coercion may include emotional force, physical force or the threat of physical force, and, financial pressure.

In an arranged marriage, both parties have consented to the union but can still refuse to marry if they choose to.

The Forced Marriage Unit of the Home Office issued a report last month detailing that throughout 2016 they had 1428 reported cases where advice or support was sought, 80 % involving female victims. This was a reported increase of 14% or 208 cases from the previous year. However forced marriage is a hidden crime and the full extent of the abuse may not be actually known.

The full report on FMU Statistics can be accessed here.

In efforts to respond to forced marriage the Scottish Government has introduced both civil and criminal legislation relating to forced marriage. The Forced Marriage etc (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act 2011 provides civil protection in the form of Forced Marriage Protection Orders (FMPO) for those at risk of forced marriage as well as those already in forced marriages. Breaching a FMPO is a criminal offence. A specific criminal offence of forcing someone to marry in Scotland was created under section 122 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and came into force on 30th September 2014.

A very detailed report from the Scottish Government on 'Understanding forced marriage in Scotland' was published in earlier this year in January and can be found here.