Forced Marriage

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What is a forced marriage?

Everyone has the right to choose who they marry, when they marry, or even if they want to get married at all.

Forced marriage happens when a person who does not want to get married, or a person under 16 or a vulnerable person (e.g. with a learning or physical disability) who is not able to give consent, is pressured or tricked into marriage.

The ‘force’ used can be physical or emotional (such as telling them they will bring shame upon their family). Sometimes forced marriages happen in the UK, but at other times people are taken overseas for wedding ceremonies.

A forced marriage is very different from an arranged marriage where both the bride and groom can choose if they want to go ahead with the marriage. In a forced marriage there is no freedom of choice.

What does the law say?

Forcing someone to marry against their will is a crime. The law can protect you if you are at risk of being forced into marriage. Since 2011 there is legislation to provide protection to people threatened with forced marriage and those already in such marriages. In 2014, forcing someone into marriage was made a criminal offence in Scotland.

Find out more in the Forced Marriage etc. (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act 2011.

What is a forced marriage protection order?

Forced Marriage Protection Orders (FMPO) are designed to prevent a forced marriage occurring or to offer protective measures when a forced marriage has taken place. Forced Marriage Protection Orders can be tailored to suit your needs. They can include restrictions, requirements or bans that the court thinks will stop or change the behaviour of people who want to force you to marry someone. For example, a FMPO might stop someone from being taken abroad or demand that passports, birth certificates and travel documents are handed over to the court.

If you have a Forced Marriage Protection Order in place it means that no one is allowed to pressure you to marry. A FMPO is not a criminal matter unless it is breached. It lasts as long as you need it to.

I am being forced to marry, what should I do?

If you have been forced to marry, or you think your family is planning your wedding here or overseas, speak to someone you trust like a teacher or colleague, or phone Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline (SDAFMH) or the Forced Marriage Unit immediately. You can also contact the police if you feel threatened.

Someone I know is at risk of forced marriage – what should I do?

If you have concerns for a friend, colleague or family member try to speak to them about what they are going through. You may need to talk to the person in private, away from their family – let them know that they can trust you and try to keep the lines of communication open so that they know you are always there for them.

If you want advice or non-emergency assistance you can call the Forced Marriage Unit or SDAFMH for more information.

If you ever witness an assault or feel that someone is in immediate danger you can call 999. 

Where can you get help and support?

Find out where to get additional support.

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Visit the That’s Not OK campaign page for more information.

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