Forced Marriage – What is it?

What is forced marriage?

A forced marriage is a marriage where one or both people do not consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used.

Introduction

You have the right to choose whom you marry, when you marry, or if you marry at all.

Reading time: 6 minutes

Legal issues under forced marriage?

  • The Legal definition
  • What is a forced marriage?
  • What is force?
  • What is consent?
  • Difference between a forced marriage and arranged marriage?
  • Forced marriage and domestic violence.
  • Legal protection
  • Forced Marriage Protection Orders
  • Can you apply for a Protection Order?
  • Who can you get a Protection Order against?
  • Can someone else make the application for me?

The Forced Marriage Unit defines forced marriage as:

“A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used. It is an appalling and indefensible practice and is recognised in the UK as a form of violence against women and men, domestic/child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights.

The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be physical (including threats, actual physical violence and sexual violence) or emotional and psychological (for example, when someone is made to feel like they’re bringing shame on their family). Financial abuse (taking your wages or not giving you any money) can also be a factor.”

What is a forced marriage?

A forced marriage is a marriage, which takes place against your will; or a marriage that you agreed to, but you did not have a choice for example, if you have faced physical pressure to marry, e.g. threats, physical violence, sexual violence or; emotional or psychological pressure.

What is force?

Forced marriage involves situations where you feel pressured to the point where you agree, but only because you feel you did not have the choice to say no, and you would not have consented had the pressure not been placed on you.

The legal definition of force includes physical, psychological, sexual, financial and emotional pressure as well as emotional and psychological abuse or harassment. Force also includes fear of consequences if you try to resist being married, for example, shame on the family, and even being physically harmed.

Physical abuse includes;

•    Threats of violence

•    Actual physical violence and

•    Sexual violence.

Emotional and Psychological abuse includes;

•    Letting the family down

•    Made to feel that you are a bad daughter or son

•    Told that you have gone against your cultural or religious expectations and

•     Possible shame on the family

•    Threats of self-harm or suicide by family members.

Financial abuse includes;

•    Taking your wages

•    Not giving you any, or enough money

•    Forcing you to move out.

What is consent?

Consent within a forced marriage, means that you had the freedom to choose whether or not to enter the marriage.  If threats of violence are made against you or another person, or you have been detained against your will, or you believe entering the marriage is required because that is what your family expects, then you may not be able to refuse the marriage, and therefore you do not have the freedom to consent.

Difference between a forced marriage and arranged marriage?

The key distinction is that a forced marriage involves a lack of consent by one or both parties and where coercion or pressure factor.  Arranged marriages involving adults who are freely consenting is legal and does not breach the law or breach legal rights. However, it is worth noting that consenting due to fear or pressure is not valid consent.

Forced marriage and domestic violence.

After a forced marriage many women are then subjected to different forms of abuse within the context of their marriage. This can range from physical violence, emotional and psychological abuse, financial abuse, and sexual abuse.

Domestic violence is defined as:

 “Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.

Legal protection

Forced marriage is a criminal offence. Further, you can also receive legal protection from a forced marriage in the civil courts.

Forced Marriage Protection Orders

A Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) is a type of injunction which can forbid the person forcing you to marry from being physically violent, contacting you directly or indirectly (by making someone else contact you), taking you out of the country, or making marriage arrangements. The injunction can also require the person named in the order to do certain things, for example, handover passports to the court or ensure a young person attends school.

Examples:

1.    The Respondent must not harass, pester or molest the Applicant, directly or indirectly.

2.    The Respondent must not take the Applicant out of the London area.

3.    3. The Respondent must stop any arrangements for the wedding of the Applicant.

Can you apply for a Protection Order?

The marriage does not have to have occurred for you to gain protection. You can apply for an FMPO if you have been forced into a marriage or you believe you are being forced into a marriage.

An FMPO is a court order containing provisions that can restrict a person’s actions or require them to take certain steps to protect you from abuse and to stop the person(s) making arrangements for the marriage. This could mean that the order is made against one person or many people who are involved in the forced marriage.

Who can you get a Protection Order against?

An order can be made against any persons in the UK or outside, who is, or has been, involved in the forced marriage in any way. For example, your mother, father, or other close family members; or someone whom you do not know but is involved in the forced marriage.

The person’s involvement in the forced marriage does not have to involve them physically abusing or threatening you, or involve any other type of abuse; it could be made against a person who is making arrangements for your wedding or for flights to take you to another country for the purposes of your marriage. For example, an imam or a priest who is going to conduct the ceremony or wider family members who are acting in a harassing way could be subject to an FMPO.

Can someone else make the application for me?

If you are not able to make the application yourself, then someone else can make the application on your behalf.

What would you do next?

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