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About forced marriages

  • If someone is forced into marriage, they don't have a choice whether they want to get married
  • Forced marriage can happen to boys as well as girls, but it usually happens to girls
  • Forced marriage is now against the law in Britain
  • People who have been forced to marry can become depressed because they are not happy

Your right to choose

Arranged marriages have been a tradition for centuries. Two families come together to discuss a marriage and the young people from each family choose whether or not they want to get married. But forced marriages are very different to this - young people are made to marry, even if they don't want to.

Girls as young as 13 can be forced into marriage, but it can also happen to boys. Often, their families use physical force or emotional pressure to make sure the marriage happens. The government hears of around 300 cases every year, but the real figure is probably higher because many people in forced marriages are scared to ask for help.

Some forced marriages take place in Britain. Sometimes a girl is sent abroad to visit relatves and is then forced to get married, maybe to a man who's a lot older than her. Then she might return to Britain and her new husband may come to live with her. Sometimes his extended family might come to.

Being forced to marry is traumatic and frightening. A young woman in a forced marriage may be raped again and again until she falls pregnant. She might become very isolated, and feel like she has no one to talk to. She may get depressed and start to self-harm, develop an eating disorder or even think about killing herself.

Many young women in forced marriages have less chance to work or study at further education level. There can also be big restrictions on their lifestyle, and some are kept at home and aren't allowed to go out when they want.

But many parents who force their children to marry don't think that they're doing anything wrong, and often do it because:

  • They want to protect their family's honour and reputation
  • They want to preserve cultural or religious traditions
  • They want to stop their child having sex before marriage
  • Their extended family is putting them under pressure to do it
  • They want to receive money from another family

Forced marriages are not illegal in Britain, but many people see them as an abuse of human rights and the government may change the law. People can be sent to jail for offences linked to forced marriage, like assault, kidnap, rape and sometimes even murder. There have been some cases of fathers allowing a son to murder a daughter because she's brought shame on her family by running away from a forced marriage - this is known as an 'honour killing'.

 

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