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What is forced marriage?

A forced marriage is where one or both people do not, or cannot, consent (agree) to the marriage.

Forced marriages can happen to anyone from any background and nationality, and can affect both males and females. It doesn’t only happen to young people, it can happen to adults too.

It's different to an arranged marriage where there's a choice and both people agree to it.

Forced marriage is often linked to honour-based abuse, although this isn't always the case.

Forced marriage and the law

It's illegal in the UK to force someone to marry, this includes:

  • taking someone abroad to force them to marry (even if the forced marriage doesn't take place)

  • marrying someone who can't consent to the marriage

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

Being forced to marry

It’s possible that your parents or family are forcing you to marry because they think it’s the best thing for you. Or some families may see forced marriage as part of their religion or culture.

They might be putting pressure on you in the following ways:

  • physical abuse: threats, physical and sexual violence

  • emotional and psychological abuse: making you feel like you're bringing shame on your family

  • financial abuse: having your wages taken away or withholding money

If you've already been forced into a marriage this abuse might still be happening.

Forced marriage warning signs

Forced marriage could be happening to someone you know.

Some signs that someone could soon be (or is already) a victim of forced marriage:

  • running away from home

  • self-harming or attempted suicide

  • depression, or becoming worried or withdrawn

  • poor performance at work, school or college or unexplained absence

  • a surprise engagement to a stranger you've not heard of before

  • a sudden holiday (some people are tricked into going abroad for a holiday or to see relatives)

  • no control over their own money

  • not returning from a visit to another country

“When women support women, they can heal, empower, and give strength”

Lila Begum

My name is Lila Begum and I am a survivor of child and forced marriage, as well as a survivor of domestic abuse.

I have been supporting Bedfordshire Police as a volunteer for nearly ten years, initially as member of the Independent Advisory Group and now on the Chief Constable panel.

I have worked both professionally and voluntarily for over 20 years, supporting victims of domestic abuse, forced marriage and honour-based violence.

I am always ready to support anyone who seeks my help, even if it is in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning.

Having my rights to live as a child, access education and live life without fear, were all deprived from me.

I  also faced many discriminations because of my faith and ethnicity, including discrimination from my own community because of being bought up by a single parent.

It all hurt, but this did not stop me from helping others, it also helped me to survive.

I was very fortunate to have met many amazing women who gave me the inspiration and strength to live life and my mother was one of these amazing women. During her own personal hardship, she never ceased to help others and stood by those who faced injustice. She spoke for those during a time where women were not to be seen or heard.

My friend Carol who mentored me to ensure I reach my potential professionally, Glenis who looked after my children when I needed medical care after a horrific incident.

Debra from Nine Red, who I never met in person but helped at a time in my life where I needed practical help to keep me safe.

Delphi, Rehena and Clare who helped me be heard.

My manager Joella, who believed in me and made my workspace safe.

My best friends Nasima, Jay, Shamela and Fsella who wiped my tears and picked up the broken pieces, without them all life would’ve been hard.

When women support women, they can heal, empower, and give strength, like how these amazing women did to me.

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