Forced marriages

What is the difference between a forced marriage and arranged marriage?

An arranged marriage is legal and takes place with full consent of both parties. This means that both parties agree to the marriage.

A forced marriage occurs without the full and free consent of the parties. Such force to marry can take various forms and includes:

  • physical force or threats of violence
  • emotional pressure
  • psychological pressure

What is a Forced Marriage Protection Order?

Legislation is in place to help people who are forced into marriage or are already in a forced marriage. A judge can make an order to protect an individual depending on their individual circumstances.

The aim of such an order is to protect the person who is forced into a marriage. If the court determines a person needs immediate protection, such an order could be made straightaway. If the person whom the order is made against fails to comply with the terms of a Forced Marriage Protection Order, it is a criminal offence and can result in a sentence of up to 5 years in prison in a Criminal Court, or to apply in the Family Court for committal for contempt of court which can result in a sentence of up to 2 years in prison.

Making an application on someone else’s behalf

It is possible to make an application on someone’s behalf if you think they are being forced into a marriage, but you will need to ask the court’s permission to make such an application.

What if the marriage has already taken place?

If the marriage ceremony has taken place it may be possible to have the marriage annulled (which treats it as though it has never taken place) or to legally dissolve the marriage through divorce proceedings.