Forced marriage

What is forced marriage?

Forced marriage is where one or both spouses do not, or cannot consent to the marriage and duress is used by family, friends or the community to get the person(s) to marry. Duress can come in many forms and can include threats, physical, sexual and psychological abuse, and emotional pressure. It is a form of domestic abuse and can in some cases be child abuse.

Forced marriage is not the same as an arranged marriage where both parties fully consent to the marriage.

Who does it happen to and where? 

Forced marriage can happen to both girls and boys, and men and women. It can happen to people of any age, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.

Forced marriages can happen anywhere, both in the UK and abroad. You might be told that you are going on a holiday or to see relatives. The lead-up to the school holidays is a time of increased risk for young victims, who face the prospect of being taken abroad to be forced into marriage.

If you think someone will make you get married when you are abroad you must ask for help from the police before you go.

You can choose if and whom you want to marry and should not feel forced to marry against your will.

Tell me more

We have specialists who can provide advice and officers will aim to treat all information in confidence.

If you come to Dorset Police we will:

  • Believe you
  • Recognise and record your wishes as the victim
  • If you are under 18 years old, refer you to the Child Abuse Investigation Team
  • Treat the matter seriously, sensitively and in confidence
  • Work with you to keep you safe. Safety is the absolute priority and will take precedence over all other actions
  • Seek specialist advice if required

Dorset Police will not:

  • Send you away believing that it is not a police matter
  • Approach your family or community leaders
  • Share information without your consent
  • Attempt any form of mediation

Forced marriage is illegal in the UK. It a criminal offence to force someone to marry. This includes:

  • Taking someone overseas to force them to marry (whether or not the forced marriage takes place)
  • Marrying someone who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage (whether they’re pressured to or not)
  • Breaching a Forced Marriage Protection Order

Forcing someone to marry can result in a sentence of up to 7 years in prison

Disobeying a forced marriage protection order can result in a sentence of up to 5 years in prison.

If you are worried about the risk of abuse, threats of violence or forced marriage from family or community either towards yourself or another, help is out there. The police and partner agencies are here to offer support, advice and protect you. You don’t have to put up with abuse. 

Dorset Police - Report online here or if you wish to speak with someone call 101. Always dial 999 in an emergency. 

Call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. 

Other Agencies who can help:

Outreach Services (24 hours)

Outreach workers can support you wherever you are. Outreach workers can talk to you on the phone or meet you on a one to one basis. They also run drop-ins across Dorset where you can meet other people in similar situations and receive on-going support.

  • Bournemouth Outreach - 01202 547641
  • Dorset County You First - 0800 0325204
  • Poole Outreach - 01202 710777

More information about local services can be found at the Dorset For You website.

Leaving the country? 

If you are at an airport you must approach a uniformed staff member - police officer, UK Border Force, HM Customs & Revenue official or a uniformed airline official - urgently requesting to speak with police.

Advice and support for children and young people:

If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse, violence or forced marriage please report it online here or if you wish to speak with someone call 101. 

Always dial 999 in an emergency. 

Call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. 

Click here for information and practice guidelines for professionals protecting, advising and supporting victims.

The Dorset Police Safe Schools Community Team has an honour based abuse, forced marriage and FGM educational package available, which can be delivered at any school in Dorset. Teachers who feel this would be beneficial to their pupils can get in touch by emailing