Under the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, marriage can be legally “entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses”.
Forced marriage, where either one or both of the couple are made to get married against their will, is a criminal offence. Forcing someone into marriage often involves breaking multiple laws and breaching many human rights violations so it’s something the police and the courts take very seriously.
Forced Marriage Protection Legislation in England and Wales
The government defines ‘force’ as including physical, psychological, sexual, financial and emotional pressures, as well as emotional or psychological abuse or harassment.
A marriage will also be considered forced if you had agreed to it but only because you felt you could not say no.
Whilst many may think of women of particular religions and cultures as the only victims of this crime, forced marriages are a problem all over the world for people of many different religions, social classes, sexes, and nationalities.
From 2014, forced marriage has become a specific criminal offence with legal protection for those being forced into marriage now also available in the civil courts.
Forced Marriage Protection Orders
A forced marriage protection order, or FMPO, is a legal injunction which forbids the person or people trying to force you to get married from doing certain things.
This could mean stopping them from being able to contact you in any way, being physically violent, taking you out of the country, or making any marriage arrangements.
The injunction could also mean the person named in the order must do certain things, such as hand over passports to the court or ensure you are attending school.
Whoever makes the application for an FMPO, be it yourself, your solicitor, social services, or someone you know, the order must serve the order to the perpetrator themselves. A copy will also be sent to the Forced Marriage Unit and to the police meaning that if the FMPO is breached at any time, you can call the police.
Ignoring or not complying with any part of an FMPO is a criminal offence. That means they could be arrested and face penalty charges or a maximum five years imprisonment if:
⦁ the perpetrator is not allowed to contact you, and you receive a text from them, or
⦁ they breach the order in any other way.
Can I get a forced marriage protection order?
If you have been forced into a marriage, or you believe someone is forcing you into one, you can apply for a FMPO through your solicitor. The marriage does not need to have already happened for you to receive protection.
This court order will lay out what the perpetrator must and must not do in order so that you’re protected from being abused. The order also stops the person from making marriage any arrangements. For this reason, your FMPI could be made against one or multiple people involved in the forced marriage.
Where the victim is a child being taken out of the country for a forced marriage, the High Court can make an order which gives the legal system parental responsibility. This means they can ensure the child is protected when they are returned to the UK.
If you feel you are in immediate danger, call 999.
Applying for an FMPO
You can apply for an FMPO yourself if you are being forced into a marriage. However, if you unable to do this yourself, for example if you’re afraid to or cannot access the courts yourself, then someone else can do this on your behalf.
If you’re concerned that someone close to you is being forced into a marriage, you can apply for an FMO. As you’re not the victim, you’ll need the court’s permission and to prove your relationship to the victim. They will assess the circumstances and, if possible, ask the victim what they think about the application to decide how best to protect them.
When you apply for a FMPO, you’ll need to give a witness statement covering what happened, confirming you want the FMPO to be made, and – if you make an ex parte application – why the court should grant it without informing the person involved.
If you are being forced into a marriage you do not want, or are concerned a loved one may be, please call 03330096275 to speak to one of the leading family solicitors in the UK, Ashmans Solicitors.
We can help you through each step of your Forced Marriage Protection Order application and hearing to ensure you are kept safe.
You can also fill in our enquiry form below or email us on email@example.com, and we’ll get back to you as quickly as possible.