A marriage in which one or both spouses do not (or in the case of some adults with learning or physical disabilities or children, cannot) consent to the marriage and duress is involved. Duress can include physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure.
A Forced Marriage is different from an arranged marriage, which is a marriage entered into freely by both parties, although their families take a leading role in the choice of partner.
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 made it a criminal offence (which can result in a sentence of up to 7 years in prison) to force someone to marry This includes:
- 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’re pressured to or not).
The civil remedy of obtaining a Forced Marriage Protection Order through the family courts continues to exist alongside the criminal offence, so victims can choose how they wish to be assisted.
Breaching a Forced Marriage Protection Order is also a criminal offence, which can result in a sentence of up to 5 years in prison.