A forced marriage is: "A marriage conducted without valid consent of one or both parties, where consent is extracted under duress."
There is a clear distinction between a forced marriage and an arranged marriage.
Arranged marriages have existed successfully within many communities and countries for a long time. The families of both future spouses take a leading role in setting up the marriage, but the choice to accept the arrangement remains with the individuals.
In forced marriages one or both parties do not consent to the arrangement and elements of duress are involved.
Forced marriage is primarily, but not exclusively, an issue of violence against women. Most cases involve young women and girls aged between 13 and 30 years, although evidence suggests as many as 15 per cent of victims are male.
Currently some 300 cases of forced marriage are reported to the Forced Marriage Unit each year. Many more cases come to the attention of police, social services, health, education and voluntary organisations, while many others go unreported. With greater awareness, the number of cases reported is likely to increase.
Most forced marriage cases in the UK involve South Asian families, partly a reflection of the large, established South Asian population in the UK. However, it’s clear forced marriage is not just a South Asian problem, with cases involving families from East Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Some forced marriages take place in the UK with no overseas element, while others involve a partner coming from overseas or a British citizen being sent abroad.
Motives prompting forced marriage
Parents who force their children to marry often say they’re protecting their children, building stronger families and preserving cultural or religious traditions. They may not see anything wrong with their actions. Forced marriage cannot be justified on religious grounds. Every major faith condemns it and freely given consent is a prerequisite of Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh marriages.