Help and support for those who are experiencing or know someone experiencing honour-based violence (HBV) or forced marriage.

Honour-based violence (HBV) is serious. It is based upon cultural perceptions of individuals bringing 'shame' or 'dishonour' on individuals, a family or the wider community. Forced marriage or domestic abuse are forms of honour-based violence.

If you are experiencing or afraid that you are at risk of honour-based violence or forced marriage, there are people that you can speak to who will be able to provide you with help and support, in confidence.

Forced Marriage Unit Helpline

Call from the UK: 020 7008 0151

Available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Call from overseas: +44 (0)20 7008 0151

Available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Out of hours: 020 7008 1500

Ask for the Global Response Centre

Calls are charged at the standard rate for landline and mobiles may vary. Calls from payphones can cost more

Common questions

What is honour based violence and forced marriage?

Honour-based abuse is defined as ‘an incident or crime involving violence, threats of violence, intimidation coercion or abuse (including psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse) which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of an individual, family and/ or community for alleged or perceived breaches of the family and/or community’s code of behaviour’.

Domestic abuse is a form of honour-based violence (HBV), but the key difference is the number of people involved and the level of involvement of wider family and community. HBV is related to the over all control a family has over a women’s behaviour. In a case of HBV, there may be a large number of potential perpetrators, and an even higher number of persons willing to plan or be involved in violent acts.

If you are experiencing or afraid that you are at risk of honour-based violence or forced marriage, there are people that you can speak to who will be able to provide you with help and support, in confidence.

What are the signs and indicators of honour based violence and forced marriage?

It is unlikely that an individual (particularly children and young people) will make friends, acquaintances or professionals aware that they are in either a forced marriage (FM) or suffering from ‘honour’ based violence (HBV).

It is therefore important that you are aware of the how someone may act if they are at risk or are already in a forced marriage or suffering with HBV.

Potential indicators of ‘honour’ based violence and/or FM can present themselves in a number of different ways, for example:

Education  

  • Withdrawal of student from school by those with parental responsibility. 
  • Removal of day centre for person with physical or learning disability. 
  • Student being prevented from attending higher or higher education. 
  • Truancy or persistent absences. 
  • Request for extended leave or student not returning from an overseas visit. 
  • Surveillance by siblings/cousins/extended family members at school. 
  • Decline in behaviour, engagement, performance or punctuality, poor exam results. – in particular for previously motivated student. 
  • Decline in physical presentation or demeanour.

Health

  • Patient constantly being accompanied on visits to doctor, midwife and/or clinics. 
  • Self harm and/or eating disorders. 
  • Attempted suicide. 
  • Depression. 
  • Isolation. 
  • Alcohol or substance misuse. 
  • Early, unwanted or constant pregnancy. 
  • Female genital mutilation.
  • Unexplained injuries.

Personal

  • Sudden announcement of engagement to a stranger.

Family History

  • Siblings being forced to marry. 
  • Early marriage of siblings. 
  • Self harm or suicide of siblings. 
  • Death of a parent. 
  • Family disputes. 
  • Domestic Violence and abuse. 
  • Running away from home. 
  • Unreasonable restrictions (e.g. house arrest). 
  • Never being allowed to leave the home unescorted. 
  • Financial restrictions (e.g. not being access to own money or bank account).

Employment

  • Poor performance. 
  • Poor attendance. 
  • Limited career choices. 
  • Unable to attend business trips or functions. 
  • Not allowed to work.

Financial

  • Subject to financial control (e.g. not being given access to own money or bank account).

Police Involvement due to:

  • Victim or other sibling being reported as missing. 
  • Reports of domestic abuse, violence harassment or breaches of the peace in the family home. 
  • Reports of other offences such as rape or kidnap. 
  • Victim reported by family for alleged offences (e.g. substance misuse, shoplifting) 
  • Threats to kill. 
  • Attempts to kill or harm. 
  • Acid attacks. 
  • Female genital mutilation (an offence under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003).

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

If you are being forced to marry someone you don't want to, you may feel like you have no control. It is important that you think about your future, your safety and what a forced marriage would be like for you.

It can be difficult and confusing if you love your parents yet 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.

If you can’t talk to your parents, try and talk to 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. 

If it is an emergency call 999 to speak to the police.

If you are being forced into a marriage in the UK

Call the Forced Marriage Unit Helpline on 020 7008 0151 (9-5pm) or if you need to speak to someone outside of those hours call 020 7008 1500 (ask for the Global Response Centre)

If you are being taken to another country to be forced into marriage

If you know you are going to be taken out of the country call the Forced Marriage Unit on 020 7008 0151 and explain what is happening. The Forced Marriage Unit can assist in getting a Forced Marriage Protection Order for you.

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.

If I am already abroad and 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 or you can call them from overseas using +44 (0)20 7008 0151. 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.

How is honour based violence different from domestic violence?

Domestic violence is a form of honour-based violence (HBV), but the key difference is the number of people involved and the level of involvement of wider family and community.

An abusive partner in a marriage or intimate relationship may commit violence as an individual.  

HBV is related to the over all control a family has over a women’s behaviour. In a case of HBV, there may be a large number of potential perpetrators, and an even higher number of persons willing to plan or be involved in violent acts.

This causes problems for protection agencies as it multiplies potential attackers, and may present difficulties in gathering evidence as there are fewer witnesses willing to testify.

Is forced marriage against the law?

Yes. It is a criminal offence for someone to be taken abroad and forced into a marriage.

For an offence to be committed the person (perpetrator) forcing someone to marry must have:

  • used violence, threats or any other form of coercion for the purpose of causing another person to engage in a marriage 
  • he/she knows the victim does not consent to the marriage, or does not reasonably believe that she consents to the marriage (consent must be free and full).

It is also a criminal offence to deceive a victim with the intention of causing the victim to leave the United Kingdom; and plans to subject the other person to coercion (force) for the purpose of making her enter into a marriage without consent (consent must be free and full).

Courts can put in place a number of things that can protect you, even if the person accused of forced marriage offences is found not guilty. These include restraining orders, which require and/or stop  a person from doing certain things or a Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO).

There are also a range of other criminal offences covering acts which often occur when someone is forced into a marriage, for example rape, assault, theft, kidnapping, blackmail and harassment.

The police may choose to charge the perpetrator with one or more of these offences as well as, or instead of, the offence of forced marriage.

What is a Forced Marriage Protection Order?

A Forced Marriage Protection Order (FMPO) is a type of injunction (court order) which can stop the person(s) forcing you to marry from doing certain things such as making marriage arrangements or using threatening behaviour.

It also ensures the person named in the order does certain things, for example, handover passports to the court or ensure a young person attends school.

You can apply for a FMPO if:

  • you or someone else is being threatened with a forced marriage
  • you are in a forced marriage.

The marriage does not have to have taken place for you to gain protection.  

An order can be made against one or more people living in the UK or abroad, who is, or has been, involved in making any form of forced marriage arrangements or manipulating the victim through abuse or harassment.

This could be a close family member such as mother, uncle, cousin or someone who is previously unknown, such as a person in the wider community or a religious leader.

Breaching an order

It is a criminal offence to ignore any part of a FMPO. Disobeying a Forced Marriage Protection Order can result in a sentence of up to 5 years in prison.

Further information and guidance

The Forced Marriage Unit has guidance and advice on forced marriage, applying for a forced marriage protection order and what to do if you are concerned that either yourself or another person is at risk.

You can also speak to a local specialist service or Citizens Advice.