Marriage is a legally binding contract into which two people must enter freely and by choice. When either of the people entering into a marital situation have not fully consented to do so, it is a forced marriage. Forced marriage is illegal and categorised as a type of domestic abuse.
In some cases, forced marriages take place when the individuals, for any given reason, are unable to voice their consent (or lack of). It is also important to note that if a person has certain learning disabilities or mental health conditions, they may not be considered capable of legally making the decision to enter into marriage and this also constitutes a forced marriage.
Forced marriage often occurs when a person is pressurised or coerced into marrying. The pressure to marry without being fully agreeable can sometimes be physical and the victim may be subjected to threats of violence if they outwardly voice concerns or disclose to anybody the fact that they do not wish to proceed with the marriage.
However, emotional or psychological abuse is also commonly deployed in forced marriages and occurs often in particular communities. The victim is made to believe that voicing any opposition to the marriage will bring a sense of shame or dishonour to the family within their community.
The person may also be led to believe that not complying with the marriage will lead to somebody they love becoming susceptible to illness via the emotional trauma faced because of the victim’s refusal to marry. Sometimes, money, freedom and basic human rights are taken from a person until they agree to marry. There have been instances when a person has willingly gone to another country with their abuser (who is often someone they love and trust or a member of their family) only to have their travel documents taken from then when they arrive abroad, leaving them unable to return to the UK, until they comply with a forced marriage.
It is important to be aware that although forced marriages are statistically more common within certain ethnic groups, it is possible of a person of any age, gender or religion to be susceptible to this type of abuse.
An arranged marriage where an individual’s family plays a key part in choosing their life partner with their agreement is not a forced marriage if the people entering into the marriage are free to choose whether or not they wish to. However, giving consent to marriage and then changing your mind but still being compelled to continue with the agreement is categorised as a forced marriage.