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Forced Marriage and Honour Based Abuse

Advice for families and the community


Forced marriage

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 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, if you are made to feel like you’re bringing shame on your family). Financial abuse (taking your wages or not giving you any money) can also be a factor.

A forced marriage should not be confused with an arranged marriage. Arranged marriages often work very well. Forced marriages are where one or both people are ‘forced’ into a marriage that their families want, without the valid consent of both people, where physical pressure or emotional abuse is used. Victims are sometimes persuaded to return to their country of origin under false pretences.

Forced Marriage Protection Orders have been introduced to protect victims from being forced into marriage. An order can also be made to protect someone who has already been forced into marriage, to help remove them from the situation – find out more from the Forced Marriage Unit website at

Those who fail to obey an order may be found in contempt of court and sent to prison for up to two years.

Honour Based Abuse

Honour Based Abuse is an international term used by many cultures to justify abuse and violence. It is a crime or incident committed in order to protect or defend the family or community ‘honour’ (izzat).

Honour based abuse may often be linked to forced marriages, although this is not always the case. Honour crimes and forced marriages are already covered by the law, and can involve a range of criminal offences.

Honour based abuse is a collection of practices used to control behaviour within families in order to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and/or honour. Violence can occur when perpetrators perceive that a relative has shamed the family and/or community by breaking their honour code.

Women are predominantly (but not exclusively) the victims, which can be distinguished from other forms of violence, as it is often committed with some degree of approval and/or collusion from family and/or community members.

Males can also be victims, sometimes as a consequence of their involvement in what is deemed to be an inappropriate relationship, if they are gay, or if they are believed to be supporting the victim.

Honour based abuse cuts across all cultures, nationalities, faith groups and communities, usually where a culture is heavily male dominated. Relatives, including females, may conspire, aid, abet or participate in honour based abuse, for what might seem a trivial transgression.

It should be remembered cultural acceptance in some nationalities, does not mean accepting unacceptable practices and traditions.

In an Emergency call 999  or visit the WYP website at

Forced Marriage Unit
For those worried about being forced into marriage or those worried about a friend call: 020 7008 0151 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, or out of hours call 020 70081500.

You can also email the Unit at or go to their website  for more information.

The Forced Marriage Unit has released a film demonstrating the devastating impact of forced marriage on victims and their families. The film aims to raise public awareness of the issue and warns of the criminal consequences of involvement – view the film at

Freedom or Freedom Charity is a UK-based charity formed to give support to victims of forced marriage and violence upon women thought to have brought dishonour on the family. For further information visit their website at

Karma Nirvana is a UK registered charity that supports victims and survivors of Forced Marriage and Honour Based Abuse. It aims to raise public awareness on the issues, and provides education through accredited training, including seminars, conferences and workshops. It runs the National Honour Network Helpline where call handlers provide confidential listening support, options and guidance to all professionals, victims and survivors of honour based abuse. Contact the Helpline on 0800 5999247  or visit their website

MixTogether is a charity that supports mixed couples (mixed race/ religion/ caste) who face opposition from family or community to their relationship. Find out more on their website at

IKWRO the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation provides advice and support to Middle Eastern women and girls living in the UK who are facing ‘honour’ based violence, domestic abuse, forced marriage or female genital mutilation. Find out more on their website at

National Domestic Violence Helpline (24 hour Freephone)  run in partnership with Women’s Aid and Refuge, is a national service for women experiencing domestic violence, their family, friends, colleagues and others calling on their behalf.

Helpline: 0808 2000 247 or visit their website at

Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK) work to improve the social justice and equality for Muslim women and girls. Find out more on their website

Reducing the risk has lots of resources, some in languages other than English. Visit their website at

Useful documents