A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities or reduced capacity, cannot) consent to the marriage as they are pressurised, or abuse is used, to force them to do so. It is recognised in the UK as a form of domestic or child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.
The pressure put on people to marry against their will may be:
- physical: for example, threats, physical violence or sexual violence
- emotional and psychological: for example, making someone feel like they are bringing ‘shame’ on their family
- Financial abuse, for example taking someone’s wages, may also be a factor.
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 made it a criminal offence in England, Wales and Scotland to force someone to marry.
- taking someone overseas to force them to marry (whether or not the forced marriage takes place)
- marrying someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage (whether they are pressured to or not)
Forcing someone to marry can result in a sentence of up to 7 years in prison.
The term “Predatory Marriage” is Canadian in origin, it is usually defined as when a younger person moves into a caring role with an older person who lacks mental capacity to understand, and subsequently marries them. Because a marriage revokes a will. In this country, rather than predatory marriage, marriage with dementia or other lack of mental capacity comes under the criminal offence of forced marriage. The relevant phrase from the government guidance on forced marriage is: marrying someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage (whether they’re pressured to or not).
Karma Nirvana is a ‘Honour’-Based Abuse helpline – a specialist organisation supporting victims of ’honour’-based abuse and forced marriage. Their helpline is 0800 599 9247 and is open 9am - 5pm, Monday to Friday.
UK Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is a Government policy unit leading on forced marriage policy, outreach and casework. FMU operates a public helpline to provide advice and support to victims and potential victims of forced marriage. 020 7008 0151.