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Forced marriage

A forced marriage is when someone is made to marry another person who they don’t want to. Forced marriages can happen in secret and can also be planned by parents, family or religious leaders. It may involve physical abuse, sexual abuse or emotional abuse.

Forced marriage

Is a forced marriage the same as an arranged marriage?

A forced marriage is different from an arranged marriage. In an arranged marriage, people have a choice about whether they get married or not. Arranged marriages are a cultural tradition for many people, but forced marriages are an abuse of human rights.

In some cases an arranged marriage can lead to a forced marriage. For example, if you agree to marry someone but then change your mind and decide not to.
If your parents or family don’t accept your decision and still make you go ahead with the marriage, this becomes a forced marriage.

You are not alone

Nobody has the right to force you to do something you don't want to do. You can talk to ChildLine anytime about how you feel and if you are having problems with your parents.

Call 0800 1111 or chat to a counsellor online. Calls are free and confidential and the number will not show up on a phone bill, including mobiles.
Read ChildLine's confidentiality promise

  • I'm being forced to get married, what can I do?

    It’s possible that your parents or family would force you to marry because they think it’s the best thing for you. This does not make things okay and you can get help to stop this from happening.

    ChildLine understands that it can be difficult and very confusing as you love your parents and might feel unsure about why you are being forced into marrying. You might be told that you are bringing shame on your family if you don’t marry. Your parents might even say that they will disown you. This is emotional abuse.

    Remember that if you are being forced into marrying someone you don't want to, this is wrong and it is also against the law. It can feel like you have no control but it’s important to think about your future, your safety and what a forced marriage would be like for you.

    If you can't talk to your parents about this, maybe you can think of another adult who you trust, like a family member, teacher or school nurse. It’s important to let someone know as quickly as possible so that you can be safe and get the help you need.

    ChildLine is a safe place to talk and our counsellors can help you find the support you need.

  • What are my rights?

  • Forced marriage is against the law in the UK and you have a right to say no if you are being made to marry someone who you don’t want to. 

    - You have the right to choose who you marry, when you marry or whether you want to get married or not.

    -You have the right to make decisions and to be able to tell someone about what’s happening to you.

    -You have the right to feel safe and to ask for help.

    -You also have the right to say no and explain that you don’t feel happy with what is happening.

    You might worry that if you tell someone then your parents or other people could get into trouble or it might make things worse. You don’t have to deal with this on your own. There are people who won’t judge you and who will support you with what you’re going through. You can contact ChildLine in confidence at any time and talk about anything.

  • Who can be forced to marry?

    Sometimes when we think of forced marriage we might think of young Muslim girls being made to marry older men. This does happen but it’s also important to know that forced marriages happen in many religions and nationalities and it doesn’t just affect girls - boys can also be forced into marriage.  It doesn’t only happen to young people, it can happen to adults too. Forced marriage can be a very scary experience but there is help available.

  • Why do some parents force their children to marry?

  • - Sometimes parents feel pressured by the community or other family members to follow traditions.

    - Some families think it’s an important part of religion or culture.

    - Some parents might be worried about the family’s reputation and honour (in some cultures also known as 'izzat').

    - Some parents feel it’s best for their child to marry another family member so that all of the family’s money stays together.

    - Some families marry their children off in exchange for money.

    - Some parents don’t want their children to have relationships or have sex so they force them to marry instead, as a way of keeping family values and honour.

    - Some families will force their child to get married if they don’t approve of their child being gay, lesbianbisexual or transgender.

    There are some people and communities that think forced marriage is okay but it’s important to remember that all major religions (Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian and Jewish) are against forced marriage. Forced marriage is never okay.

  • I’m being taken to another country to get married, what can I do?

  • If your parents or someone else is taking you to another country to force you to get married, this is wrong. It is also breaking the law and you can get help.

    If you know you are going to be taken out of the country you can contact ChildLine or the Forced Marriage Unit and explain what is happening. The Forced Marriage Unit can assist in getting a Forced Marriage Protection Order for you. This is a legal document that can stop you being taken overseas and forced into marriage or help bring you back to the UK if you are taken out of the country. If a court makes an order for you, anyone who is trying to force you into a marriage will be made to change what they are doing or else they could be arrested.

    If you are already at the airport or travelling, you can speak to security staff or police officers at an airport and they could help you.

    Think very carefully before you leave the country as it could be much harder to get help when you are abroad. Try to let a trusted adult or close friend know that you are being taken away and keep their contact details with you. Think of a code word that only you and person will know. You could also take the contact details of the Forced Marriage Unit or British Embassy in the country you are visiting so, if you need to get help then, you have some information with you.

  • What happens if I am already abroad and then realise that I will be forced into marriage?

  • You might think you’re going on a family holiday but then realise that plans have been made for you to get married. In some cultures, families might plan a holiday around the time of religious festivals.

    It can be very scary if you are already abroad and then realise what is happening. You could contact someone who you trust in the UK who could tell your teacher or let the police know. They can tell the Forced Marriage Unit who could help you return. You could also contact the British Embassy in the country where you are – they can get help for you to leave the country and stay safe.

  • My parents will disown me if I don’t get married - where can I get help if I decide to leave home?

  • If your parents have threatened to harm you or to disown you if you don’t go ahead with a forced marriage, you can get help. You don’t have to cope on your own. There are organisations like the Karma Nirvana and Freedom Charity that support young people who have nowhere to go. They can work with social services to get you help with finding a place to stay.

    ChildLine is a safe place to talk and the counsellors can help you find the support you need.

  • Getting help

  • If you are worried or unsure about what is happening to you, or if you are worried about someone else, then please call ChildLine free on 0800 1111. Calls are free and won’t show up on a phone bill, including mobiles.

    You could also send us an email or contact us through 1-2-1 chat online. You can get help and you don’t have to cope on your own. ChildLine counsellors will not judge you and are not easily shocked by what you tell them. Remember that ChildLine is here to listen to you and it’s a safe place to talk. Read our confidentiality promise

    Remember: If you think your life is in danger you can call 999 at any time for urgent help

Other sites that can help

FMU will help you think about what your options are. Call 0207 008 0151.
The Forced Marriage Unit (FMU)

Advice on how to protect yourself from the risk of a forced marriage or honour violence. Call 0800 599 9247.
Karma Nirvana

Information about the different helplines around the world. If you are abroad and need help, this site might be useful.
Child Helpline International

Advice on your rights, how you can stay safe and how to get help if you are at risk of forced marriage. Call 0845 607 0133.
Freedom Charity

Information about forced marriage and how to report this.
You & Co

Call ChildLine

You can call ChildLine at any time on 0800 1111 to speak to a counsellor. Calls are free and confidential.

Call ChildLine

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Forced marriage 


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